Negotiating Neoliberalism: Informalisation and Reformalisation of Industrial Relations in Norway's Agricultural Industry in the 21st Century
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The flow of flexible and inexpensive low‐skilled manual labour across national borders has become a defining feature of the contemporary global political economy, often accompanied by neoliberalist labour market reforms and growth in the informalisation of labour relations in receiving economies. As a result, immigrant workers experience precarious and deteriorating wage and work arrangements. I discuss whether these are inevitable processes by analysing one particular case, that of the Norwegian agricultural industry since the turn of the century. In the first years after 2000, a growing number of low‐skilled Eastern European immigrants in Norway's agricultural industry faced precarious work arrangements as the industry drifted toward informalisation. Yet labour relations in Norwegian agriculture have since seen signs of reformalisation, resulting in higher wages and improved working conditions. I examine the characteristics of Norwegian society and its agricultural industry that have facilitated the reformalisation process. Important is the presence of strong and long‐lasting institutionalised structures of cooperation and negotiation between state agents and representatives of labour and capital, which promote more than economic rationalities among the industry's employers. The analysis builds on a mixed methods approach that addresses both macro and micro levels, as well as both institutionalised ‘objective facts’ and actors' subjective interpretations, by use of various quantitative and qualitative materials.