What is it about?

Scholarly evidence on the causes of state-run unemployment insurance development is sometimes contradictory and disconnected, preventing our understanding of union-run unemployment insurance development. I argue that a set-theoretic approach based on Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) can model the business-labor interaction in the development of union unemployment funds. I revealed two causal paths by comparing 11 sectors in 20th-century France. In skill-intensive, low-risk firms, union funds developed only when unionization rates were low. In small, low-risk factories, funds developed regardless of workers’ wages. The sociability fostered by small unions and factories allowed for social control, reducing psychological barriers to insurance scheme establishment. By comparing the business-labor combinations in different industries, this study demonstrates the “variety of unionism” hidden beneath the existing macro cross-national evidence. I feel that the results have the potential to stimulate a fruitful debate about the appropriateness of the set-theoretic approach to welfare state development and the causal complexity of this research area.

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Why is it important?

Recent reexaminations of worker involvement in expanding the welfare programs have not sufficiently related variations in trade unionism to variations in business preferences. A set-theoretic approach may be more successful in explaining varieties of business-union combinations. By applying QCA to meet this requirement, this article provided some avenues for future research.


I explore the interplay between business and labor-related factors by identifying the set-theoretical combination of conditions. QCA is appropriate, regardless of the number of cases, if the phenomenon of interest is best understood in terms of set relations. Although set relations are a strength of QCA that regression analysis does not have, researchers have paid less attention to this aspect than causal complexity. Using a two-step QCA approach, which allows researchers to identify combinations of remote and proximate factors, this article reveals the interplays of factors related to business and union preferences that led to the union-run unemployment insurance expansion.

Naoki Nishida

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This page is a summary of: Varieties of Unionism?, Comparative Sociology, April 2023, Brill, DOI: 10.1163/15691330-bja10078.
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