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Rethinking retirement : the politics of pension reform in Britain, Switzerland and France

Bonoli, Giuliano (1997) Rethinking retirement : the politics of pension reform in Britain, Switzerland and France. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.85985) (KAR id:85985)


This study is concerned with the impact that political institutions can have on welfare reforms. It compares recent pension reforms adopted in three countries - the UK, France and Switzerland - characterised by very different constitutional arrangements. In each country, governments shared similar concerns for the medium and long term financing of state pensions, and were equally committed to achieve savings through a partial rethinking of pension policy. However, the three governments were operating in substantially different institutional environments, and developed different strategies in order to achieve a common goal.

In the UK, thanks to a constitutional structure which concentrates power in the hands of the government, the latter was able to impose changes in face of widespread public opposition. In contrast, in Switzerland, the high level of power fragmentation generated by its political institutions forced the majority to combine saving measures with elements of expansion. Finally France, which as far as constitutional arrangements comes somewhere between the two, managed to adopt a (negotiated) reform when, because of contingent political factors, power concentration was low, but failed when it was higher.

The study concludes by arguing that political institutions are an important factor which affects the selection of a given strategy in pension reform. However, their impact is mediated by a series of other contingencies that can influence the level of power concentration. Of particular relevance are electoral results, which can strengthen or weaken the bargaining power of a government, and the position in the electoral cycle at the time of reform.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.85985
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 09 February 2021 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Uncontrolled keywords: Pension reform; Great Britain; France; Switzerland; Government
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HG Finance
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
J Political Science > JN Political institutions and public administration (Europe)
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 29 Oct 2019 16:23 UTC
Last Modified: 08 Dec 2022 18:34 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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