Frontal assault versus incremental change: a comparison of collective bargaining in Portugal and the Netherlands

Alexander Hijzen, Pedro Silva Martins, Jante Parlevliet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Collective bargaining has come under renewed scrutiny, especially in Southern European countries, which rely predominantly on sectoral bargaining supported by administrative extensions of collective agreements. Following the global financial crisis, some of these countries have implemented substantial reforms in the context of adjustment programmes, seen by some as a ‘frontal assault’ on collective bargaining. This paper compares the recent top-down reforms in Portugal with the more gradual evolution of the system in the Netherlands. While the Dutch bargaining system shares many of the key features that characterise the Portuguese system, it has shown a much greater ability to adjust to new challenges through concerted social dialogue. This paper shows that the recent reforms in Portugal have brought the system more in line with Dutch practices, including in relation to the degree of flexibility in sectoral collective agreements at the worker and firm levels, the criteria for administrative extensions, and the application of retro-and ultra-activity. However, it remains to be seen to what extent the top-down approach taken in Portugal will change bargaining practices, and importantly, the quality of industrial relations.

Original languageEnglish
JournalIZA Journal of Labor Policy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Bargaining coverage/structure/coordination
  • Collective bargaining
  • Comparative economic systems
  • Trust


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