Employers As Actors of Regional Development? Employer Collective Action in a Espirito Santo, Brazil

Thursday, 2 July 2015: 2:15 PM-3:45 PM
TW2.3.02 (Tower Two)
Heike Doering, Cardiff University, Cardiff, United Kingdom
In recent years, employers’ action beyond the work place has increasingly attracted attention. In particular, the role of large-scale employers and multinational companies in emerging economies in the context of social and economic upgrading has been of interest. Here, the growth of business organizations engaging with the state to achieve developmental outcomes adds to the discussions of such groups influencing and shaping labour and employment policies. While discussions of employer organizations have often remained at the national level, this paper is concerned with the emergence of such interest groups with a particular regional focus and in the context of improving local and regional competitiveness via local employment as well as wider economic policies.

The study is set in a small coastal state of Brazil, which has prospered (unevenly) on the basis of the commodities trade and export. It is home to a number of multinational companies benefiting from its geographical location and access to resource and commodity markets. In recent years, however, institutional weaknesses of state authorities have disadvantaged both local and multinational business actors. As a result, employer collective action emerged with a decidedly developmental ambition. Increasingly, however, both state and business actors encounter problems of legitimacy with growing civil society dissent in relation to continued extractionist rather than sustainable development. The paper is based on interviews with representatives of the employers’ organisation and individual multinational companies. The paper therefore aims to contribute to recent discussions of the wider impact of employers’ collective action beyond the workplace. It also engages with the emerging literature on hierarchical market economies in Latin America and provides a different lens on our understanding of hierarchical business-state-society relations in emerging economies.