Is Polder-Type Governance Good for You?

This paper searches for the origins of the relatively successful performance of Hoogovens, the only sizeable steel firm in the Netherlands. It is suggested that Hoogovens has at critical moments benefited substantially from both strategic and financial support, but has basically been left to decide its own policies. Fortunately, it mostly opted for appropriate policies, so that the industry's decline hit less hard in the Netherlands than elsewhere. More specifically, Hoogovens chose to diversify into the aluminium market at a relatively early stage, and it broke up its merger with Germany's Hoesch. However, Hoogovens also benefited from the Polder Model's emphasis on wage restraint, as much of the firm's output is exported. Moreover, corporatist welfare arrangements allowed Hoogovens to shed labour without causing extraordinary unrest. It is concluded that the success of 'laissez-faire intervention' heavily depends on the qualities of the supported firm's management. Polder-type governance in terms of wages and labour has beneficial effects in the short run, but may retard innovation.

  • Authors: Hans Schenk
  • Year: 2000
  • Organisation: ERIM
  • Publisher: ERIM
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