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Employment relations in a changing world : a comparison of outcomes for New Zealand workers under neoliberalist and third way regimes : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Social Policy at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
This research is an examination of the effect of recent world changes on political-economic
strategies in industrialised countries, and the subsequent developments in employment relations.
The three major strategies included are neoliberalism, the third way, and social partnership. The
trends covered under employment relations focus on decentralisation, labour market flexibility,
workforce skill and education, and union decline. Overall the thesis is aimed at describing and
analysing the changes to employment relations under these three strategies, then at assessing
and comparing the related outcomes for workers in New Zealand under the neoliberalist and
third way approaches.
A qualitative approach was used in the thesis through informal conversations with key New
Zealanders to determine worker goals. Supporting this was a literature search on worker goals
worldwide which relied on comparative policy research methods. Both aspects then provided
the basis for selection of the relevant measures of outcomes for local workers. A quantitative
approach was necessary in gathering and analysing the data required to actually measure
outcomes for workers under the neoliberalist and third way strategies. This enabled assessment
and analysis of the results of the policy-making linked to these political-economic strategies in
this country. A comparison of the outcomes for New Zealand workers under neoliberalism and
the third way was then feasible, providing some indication as to which approach has been most
beneficial for workers in this country.
The main findings of the study focus on the outcomes fQr workers in New Zealand, which are
seen as resulting largely from neoliberalist and third way policy-making (or the lack of same),
and the related trends in employment relations. The more negative trends in line with
international patterns in employment relations occurred under neoliberalism, while the more
positive trend of workforce skill and development was more prevalent under the third way. In
terms of actual results, the third way in comparison to neoliberalism has not delivered
significantly better outcomes to New Zealanders. While the neoliberalist regime certainly
instigated the changes that caused such dramatic declines for workers during the 1990s, most of
the recent improvements under the third way seem to be a diluted continuation of earlier
positive trends, although this is also the case where negative trends have persisted. Generally
the third way approach has acted to halt earlier declines rather than reversing negative outcomes
in any substantial way. Where the neoliberalist approach was fairly indiscriminate in
disadvantaging workers, the third way appears to have mostly been of benefit to the average
working New Zealander, rather than assisting the more marginalised groups.