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Industrial relations in Namibia since independence: Between neo‐liberalism and neo‐corporatism?

Gilton Klerck (Department of Sociology, Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa)

Employee Relations

ISSN: 0142-5455

Article publication date: 27 June 2008

Abstract

Purpose

The paper seeks to examine the changes and continuities in industrial relations in post‐independence Namibia. In particular, it aims to explore some of the key elements in the process through which the distribution of the costs and rewards of economic and industrial restructuring is institutionalised.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper concentrates, through in‐depth interviews with key role players, on how the attempts at sustaining a durable and redistributive trade‐off between economic efficiency and social equality led to a contradictory fusion of neo‐liberal and neo‐corporatist forms of labour market regulation.

Findings

The research reveals that changes in the regulation of the labour market since independence have created opportunities for advancement and participation by groups of more skilled and organised employees, while weaker and less skilled groups have generally experienced a decline in employment conditions and the absence of collective representation. These developments reflect and reproduce patterns of racial and gender discrimination, industrial structure, trade union membership and collective bargaining across the various sectors and occupations.

Practical implications

The paper shows that a system of low‐skill, low‐wage and low‐trust relations – with an emphasis on cost reduction and employment “flexibility” – is fast becoming embedded in industrial relations in Namibia. Given the prevailing economic policies, industrial strategies and labour market structures, Namibia's integration into the global economy will most likely involve the increasing dislocation and exclusion of vulnerable and “peripheral” workers from the formal economy.

Originality/value

The paper highlights the ways in which the transformation of industrial relations in Namibia is shaped by the legacy of apartheid‐colonialism and the pressures of globalisation. Specifically, the conjunction of increasingly deregulated product markets and increasingly regulated labour markets has driven a wedge between the pursuit of short‐term objectives and the attainment of long‐term transformational goals.

Keywords

Citation

Klerck, G. (2008), "Industrial relations in Namibia since independence: Between neo‐liberalism and neo‐corporatism?", Employee Relations, Vol. 30 No. 4, pp. 355-371. https://doi.org/10.1108/01425450810879349

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited