The New Politics of the Minimum Wage
What are the partisan politics of the minimum wage? If left-wing parties are aligned with unions and right-wing parties with employers, we would expect a positive left-partisan effect on the level of the minimum wage. But two things may work against this. First, the ‘producer group’ alignments of political parties may be overridden by other political goals, such as reducing or redirecting public expenditure. A variety of ‘issue linkages’ may coalesce around the minimum wage. Changes in the welfare state – specifically, the growth of in-work benefits - have had a particularly pronounced impact. Second, the institutional arrangements for setting the minimum wage may suppress partisan effects, although this depends on how entrenched those arrangements are: they may also be affected by partisan politics. Using the UK case as a starting point, this seminar traces the reasons for the apparent partisan reversal that has occurred there, with modest minimum wage settlements under Labour and a large increase by the Conservatives, and discusses the implications for understanding minimum wage policy in other high-income countries, including Australia.
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Deborah Mabbett is Professor of Public Policy in the Department of Politics at Birkbeck, University of London and joint editor of the journal Political Quarterly. She has a background in comparative social policy and primarily works on market regulation by non-majoritarian institutions, with a particular focus on regulation directed to social policy objectives. Her research includes studies of anti-discrimination policies and the regulation of private pensions and insurance. She is currently engaged in projects on central bank independence and the politics of minimum wage regulation. She is an RSSS Visiting Fellow based in the School of Politics and International Relations for the month of November 2015.