Collectivism versus individualism in Dutch employment relations

Jan de Leede, Jan C. Looise, Maarten van Riemsdijk

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From a very centralistic and collectivistic tradition after World War Two, Dutch employment relations now show a trend towards radical decentralisation and individualisation. What might be the consequences of this trend for labour relations? Do developments still fit within a movement towards `organised decentralisation’ or will the existing system of labour relations be hollowed out and destroyed? And what will be the consequences for ER management at company level? We present empirical data on how companies deal with their decentralised and individualised employment relations. It appears that, in the main areas such as labour contracts, working time arrangements, reward systems and development plans, decentralisation and individualisation are taking place. It has also become clear that management as well as workers support this and that a new form of negotiation between them is developing at workplace level, resulting in what we call `third contracts’ that are additional to the initial labour contract and the collective agreement. Our results also highlight the pragmatic way in which companies deal with these decentralised and individualised employment relations, which, nevertheless, remain linked to the national and collective levels of bargaining. Within the multilevel system of Dutch employment relations a new balance between collectivism and individualism is emerging.
Original languageUndefined
Pages (from-to)25-39
Number of pages15
JournalHuman resource management journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2004


  • IR-58271
  • METIS-217635

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