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Call for papers
The call is now closed

Institutional Change and Experimentation: Shaping the Future of Work and Employment

CRIMT 2015 International Conference

There is increasing consensus that the institutions regulating work and employment are, to varying degrees, in a state of flux across the globe. In many ways, institutions are out of synch with the realities of the contemporary labour market, failing to meet the challenges of the global financial crisis and the profound transformations of capitalism, and falling short of delivering good results for workers and the communities in which they live. Yet, in many countries, policy makers, corporations, trade unionists and other civil society organizations are seeking to maintain or change existing institutions and there is much experimentation taking place, at the local, sector, regional, national and transnational levels. Such experimentation involves the creation of new norms, practices and policies. However, these processes of institutional change are uneven and contested, yielding both positive and negative outcomes: be it enhancing or reducing inequalities, worsening or improving working conditions, increasing or reducing the asymmetries of power between actors, and being more or less inclusive, democratic and participative.

This conference explores changes in the institutions of work and employment in various contexts. It seeks a better understanding of experimental practices and policies developed by a range of actors at different levels, and to provide an assessment of their social and economic impact. It also seeks to understand how existing institutions facilitate or hinder change and how and why institutions fade away or prevail over time and in different contexts. A particular focus is on both the development of new practices, norms and mechanisms and on the capabilities and resources that foster capacity building in the regulation of work and employment. The Conference organizers especially welcome proposals that contribute to multi-level or comparative analysis of the conditions promoting worker well-being, organizational sustainability and greater inclusiveness for those traditionally excluded from institutions for work and employment. It also seeks contributions that assess the complex and shifting sets of relationships between actors and institutions and the role and importance of various actor capabilities and resources in institutional change and experimentation.

This call for papers invites original academic and practitioner contributions on one or more of the following themes:

1. The State, regime competition and policy choice

This theme explores the variations in state policies in response to increasing competition, uncertainty and inequality. It seeks to examine the different types of policy initiative and their effects in the world of work (austerity or social investment, reduced or heightened risk, enhanced or diminished opportunities for people), the latitude for states to make policy choices, and the way that governments, at different levels and in the context of multi-level governance, are seeking or being forced to transform existing institutions for work and employment and engaging in institutional experimentation.

2. Articulated or disarticulated, connected or disconnected institutions

This theme explores issues such as the financialization of the economy, the restructuring of the state, multi-level governance and global warming in order to deepen our understanding of the disarticulation and reconnection of various institutional domains and their implications for the regulation of work and employment. The focus is on the relationship between institutions for work and employment and other institutional domains that shape the world of work, such as the organization of production, the financial and political systems, the media, the educational and health systems, social protection, the family, etc.

3. Inclusive and participative institutions

Institutions about the regulation of work often express certain social locations while excluding others. This theme seeks to highlight how the process of institutional change can be both inclusionary and exclusionary. Such processes can cut across the locations of gender, racialized minorities, migrants, the poor, sexual orientation, new professional groups and so on. The key challenge concerns how to design and develop institutions and processes that are truly inclusive and responsive to the diversity and intersections of social locations in which contemporary workers are situated.

4. Worker organizations and institutional experimentation

This theme explores how existing and emerging institutions are reshaping the role of trade unions and other worker organizations, with a particular focus on how they do or do not enlarge their repertoires of action and enhance or limit the development of new resources and capabilities. It also seeks to understand the role of trade unions in maintaining existing institutions as well as developing new ones that increase their capacity to improve the lives of workers and citizens.

5. Multinational companies (MNCs) and Global value chains (GVCs)

MNCs are active in shaping globalization through the direct control of their global production networks but also through their capacity to frame a broader agenda on economic and social change. This theme focuses on how MNC strategies shape and are shaped by institutions and, in turn, how actors within and around MNCs experiment with work and employment arrangements that foster institutional change.

6. National institutional arrangements and the social dynamics of work

This theme seeks to understand - in the context of varied institutional arrangements - how different types of actors cope with issues such as pensions, working time, flexibility, the environment, and how particular institutional arrangements impact on social risk, life choices and opportunities, job quality and overall societal social and economic performance. Do different institutional arrangements yield better or worse results? Are there comparative institutional advantages? The objective is to explore the ways in which national institutions, including those pertaining to collective bargaining, are being recast in the way that they shape the regulation of work.

7. Actors and institutions for regional and sector governance

This theme focuses on the various forms of governance at the sub-national and industry levels and examines how they shape the way actors deal with a variety of issues such as skills training, restructuring, de- and re-location, economic and social development. Of particular importance is the nature of the relationships between different actors (employer associations, trade unions, firms, economic development agencies, investment funds, other civil society organizations, etc.), their mobilization of institutional levers, the types of experimentation in which they engage, and on the space this opens up for communities to shape their economic and social future.

8. International labour standards

This theme seeks to understand the processes through which the emergence of and experimentation with international labour standards can enhance the working conditions, worker voice, life opportunities and equality in both North and South. This might include judicial dialogue between national and international norms or through the transnational hybridization of hard- and soft-law and public and private mechanisms, such as corporate social responsibility, codes of corporate conduct, international framework agreements and global standards.

9. Multilateral trade and the emergence of social regionalism

This theme considers the numerous layers of regulation in the construction of social norms and frameworks at multiple governance levels. It encompasses the WTO, regional and bilateral frameworks for reciprocal or preferential trade (e.g. EU, NAFTA, MERCOSUR, CARICOM, SADC, EU partnership agreements, and emerging Canada-EU, Transatlantic and Trans-Pacific trade agreements), as well as bilateral investment treaties and model investment agreements. It interrogates the space for experimentation on mediating the social in the economic within and across governance levels and across fundamental asymmetries within and across regions, on economic, social and environmental outcomes.

Submitting a proposal

Researchers (including graduate students), policy makers, labour market practitioners, and other interested persons are invited to submit original paper and workshop proposals (in English or French) on one or more of the above themes or their interrelationships. Proposals can be theoretical, analytical, empirical or policy-oriented.

The Scientific and Coordinating Committee is interested in proposals featuring theoretical and conceptual contributions, original empirical analyses, and studies of institutional change and experimentation for shaping the future of work and employment. Contributions that open up the realm of institutional possibility, integrate multi-level or interdisciplinary analysis, or exhibit a strong normative basis for policy options and promoting good outcomes for workers and their organizations, families and communities are particularly welcomed.

We strongly encourage proposals for workshops of linked papers (four papers or three papers and a discussant), symposiums (two or more linked workshops on a common theme) and workshop panels that involve both labour market actors and academic researchers (four or five participants).

All proposals will be subject to a competitive review. We will do our utmost to provide a timely response to your proposals so that you can secure financing to attend the conference. All participants must cover their registration fees, travel and other expenses.

The call is now closed.

Individual paper proposals should be a maximum of 2 pages, identify the authors and their institutional affiliation, and outline the nature of the study (including the main lines of analysis and methodology as relevant). Workshop proposals should be 3-5 pages in length, identify all participants and their institutional affiliation, and include details on the contribution as a whole, as well as on each individual contribution (2-3 paragraphs for each).

All proposals should be sent by e-mail to Nicolas Roby (CRIMT Scientific Coordinator) at Authors should submit a first draft of their paper by May 8, 2015. Papers will be made available at the time of the conference on a special conference website. Some will be selected for submission to leading refereed journals for inclusion in special issues.

The Interuniversity Research Centre on Globalization and Work ( and its partners look forward to rich and interesting debates by academics and practitioners from all perspectives and from many countries, including emerging economies.