High levels of unemployment, or high levels of social expenditures as well as the growing demand for a flexible labour force
have given new impetus to the world-wide discussion on what model to use for an efficiently operating labour market and in
particular on the role of institutions. Although there seems to be a growing consensus on the restricted governmental role
in recent decades, this has not been translated into a unanimous appraisal of the role of intermediary organisations, such
as trade unions. There is no clear view on an appropriate distribution of responsibility between government, social partners
and the market. The research project ‘distribution of responsibility for social security’ aims to create a scientific basis
for a clear and consistent view on the role and distribution of responsibilities between the different labour market institutions.
As part of this research project, this paper provides an elaborate country study of the Netherlands, on the organisation of
unemployment insurance, employment protection and active labour market and the performance of the labour market with respect
to these fields. Both first-order effects (e.g. coverage rates, expenditures, replacement rates) and second-order effects
(e.g. flows in and out of unemployment insurance) are analysed in this paper.
It is shown that the role of trade
unions in the Belgian unemployment insurance system is quite different from what one would expect in a ‘Ghent system’. It
is not the union but the state who determines the conditions of the insurance policy and both actors together are responsible
for the administration. When considering the demand side, there clearly is an element of choice in the Belgian model of unemployment
insurance since the employee can choose his payment body (union or state fund). Employment protection has been rather stable
in Belgium and an important role is played by a redundancy payment fund that guarantees temporary unemployment benefits on
top of the normal unemployment insurance benefits. As for active labour market policies, a complex web of distributions is
found in Belgium: the regional authorities are responsible for the job finding or retraining of the unemployed, the federal
government monitor and sanction the unemployed, the unions operate as a kind of ‘brokers’ helping their members to find their
way in this myriad of institutions and making sure that their rights are not infringed upon. Because these functionally differentiated
institutions are controlled by a governance structure composed of representatives of the very same collective actors, there
may be operating a kind of network structure which, in addition to the formal coordination structures that have been set up,
allows for an additional exchange of information.