ABSTRACT

Introduction In the Nordic countries, ‘social dumping’ and labour migration have become highly related issues in public discourse since the EU enlargements of 2004 and 2007. As workers from the new EU member states have travelled in large numbers to the old EU member states, concerns have been raised about the effect this will have on the receiving countries. Large socioeconomic differences between Western and Central-Eastern European (CEE) countries, manifested in significant dissimilarities in wages and working conditions, have formed the background for these concerns. Terms like ‘the Polish plumbers’, ‘welfare tourism’ and ‘social dumping’ may be seen as part of a populist political discourse aimed at fuelling and exploiting these concerns. However, they also stand for some of the more broadly harboured concerns about the specific institutional arrangements that have been at stake in the debates on labour migration and social dumping. This has been particularly true for the Nordic countries, where both welfare and labour market institutions have been seen as potentially being put under pressure by the arrival of the new labour migrants. In the academic literature, much attention has been paid to the pressures and challenges raised by EU labour migration since the recent EU enlargement rounds. The underlying assumption of many of the studies may be exemplified by Woolfson, who explicitly argued that ‘labour standards in the EU-15 may be subject to increasing pressure occasioned, in particular, by the arrival of . . . labour from Eastern Europe’ (Woolfson, 2007, p. 200). While this is a very general assumption, specific variations have also been detected. A number of studies have identified differences across sectors in the kinds of pressures exerted by the presence of labour migrants (Barrett et al., 2012; Arnholtz and Hansen, 2013; Bengtsson, 2013), while other studies have tracked variations across types of employment (Friberg et al., 2014). In particular, posting of workers has been seen as a strategy for ‘circumventing national class compromises’ (Lillie, 2010, p. 693), and as putting pressure on wages through the use of ‘cheap labour’ (Cremers, 2011). However, while these studies have focused on what causes ‘social dumping’ and the mechanisms through which it manifests itself, they have been less

concerned with defining what ‘social dumping’ actually is. In this respect, Bernaciak (in the Introduction to this volume) has called for a stronger effort to clarify the concept, and the aim of this chapter is to contribute to this endeavour. Our argument is that the phenomenon of ‘social dumping’ is not just a product of strategic actions by market participants but is also shaped by the efforts of other actors who define and try to uphold the social standards that ‘social dumping’ violates. That is, the concept of ‘social dumping’ is itself part of a political struggle revolving around the issue of distinguishing between acceptable, everyday competitive pressures of a market economy and unacceptable, extraordinary social problems engendered by ‘unfair’ competition. To make this point, the chapter will show that the understanding of ‘social dumping’ can vary substantially depending on institutional and political differences. Taking two very similar countries, namely Denmark and Norway, we show how the debate on social dumping has differed in the two countries since EU enlargement. Analysing both public discourse and reform initiatives, we argue that Danish trade unions have struggled to maintain the principle of equal treatment between domestic and migrant workers as their standard for assessing what constitutes social dumping. In so doing, they have faced substantial problems in upholding labour market standards, with some migrant workers falling far below the minimum standards set by collective agreements. In Norway, on the other hand, there has been a gradual shift in the understanding of ‘social dumping’ – from a lack of equal treatment to a failure to abide by the minimum standards. This more pragmatic approach, and the legal initiatives it has prompted, has had some success in securing minimum standards for migrant workers compared to Denmark. However, it has also involved an acceptance of lower standards being good enough for migrant workers. The analysis is based on data from a number of previous projects related to labour migration, posting and EU enlargement.1 These data include an analysis of the statistical development of labour migration to the two countries (Dølvik and Eldring, 2008; Friberg and Eldring, 2013), survey data on the use of foreign workers and their wages and working conditions in the receiving country (Friberg and Tyldum, 2007; Arnholtz Hansen and Hansen, 2009; Friberg and Eldring, 2011), extensive knowledge of the regulatory reforms that have occurred as a response to the recent EU enlargements and the new flow of labour migration (Andersen and Arnholtz, 2013), and knowledge about trade union responses to the challenges posed by the inflow of CEE workers (Eldring and Arnholtz Hansen, 2009; Eldring et al., 2012). In addition to this extensive background knowledge, the specific questions posed in this chapter have required us to revisit and reanalyse central policy documents and interviews with key actors, including a small-scale media analysis. The chapter is structured as follows. In the following section, we outline the theoretical argument behind our analysis, stressing the importance of norms and norm formation for the understanding of social dumping. We then present some important similarities and differences between Denmark and Norway. We subsequently analyse how the concept of ‘social dumping’ has been used in the two

countries and how it has been gradually given new content by regulatory reforms and discursive struggles. Finally, we discuss the findings and round off the chapter with a short conclusion.