Balancing Power - The Give and Take of Tripartism in Transition Economies
Pp. 24-35 (12)
Anne Inga Hilsen
Using the examples of China, Armenia and Tajikistan, this text will discuss the challenge of transition
from a Communist planned economy to a market economy (or, in the case of China, a socialist market economy).
Tripartism and the social dialogue (the formal dialogue between government, business and labor) are democratic
tools to make this transition possible. Tripartism can be seen as a political and pragmatic approach to developing
new industrial relations based on mutual balanced interests, rather than opposition or cooptation.
I will support this claim with data from evaluations of supported development projects in these three countries. The
objectives of these projects were democratization of work life and the support of building a sustainable work life.
Tripartism is a type of partnership, or alliance, in work life. The alliance is designed to promote collaboration
between the social partners, nationally and at the work place level. Instead of only envisioning labor relations as a
continuous engagement with competitive orientation, power struggles and conflict, it can also be seen as a
balancing of power, where each partner gives something in order to gain something. This is its greatest strength
and may well be the root of its ability to transcend political, economic, cultural and historical differences, as
demonstrated by the cases of the transition economies of China, Armenia and Tajikistan.
Work Research Institute, Oslo, Norway.