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The Political Economy of the Service Transition$
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Anne Wren

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199657285

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199657285.001.0001

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Service Expansion, International Exposure, and Political Preferences

Service Expansion, International Exposure, and Political Preferences

(p.248) 8 Service Expansion, International Exposure, and Political Preferences
The Political Economy of the Service Transition

Anne Wren

Philipp Rehm

Oxford University Press

In this chapter, Wren and Rehm show that, in tandem with the process of deindustrialization itself, one of the most striking demographic changes which has occurred in the labor markets of the economically advanced democracies since the 1970s has been the movement of large numbers of highly skilled workers from sheltered professional jobs in “welfare” sectors (such as government, education, and health) to highly paid positions in private and internationally traded service sectors (like business services and finance). The political significance of this change cannot be underestimated. In the past, highly skilled public sector workers have formed an important part of the cross-class coalition in support of Left-wing parties: public sector workers at all skill levels are predisposed both to vote for Left governments and to favor relatively high levels of welfare state provision. Making use of public opinion data from a set of thirteen OECD countries, Wren and Rehm show, however, that when highly skilled workers instead occupy jobs where they are exposed to international competition, their concerns for economic competitiveness are more likely to cause them to vote for lower levels of welfare state spending (and lower taxes) and redistribution, and to switch their partisan allegiances toward Right-wing parties. The authors conclude that as more and more highly skilled workers make the transition into exposed sectors (as a result of the expansion in trade and employment in high-end services), the cross-class coalition in support of redistribution, welfare state spending, and Left-wing parties may be increasingly undermined in many countries.

Keywords:   political preferences, service economy, service trade, high-skilled workers, redistribution, welfare state, political coalitions, partisanship, political parties, labor market

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