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The Berlusconi pension reform of 2004 was characterized by identifiable
similarities with the recent past of pensions policy-making, but
also by important differences. A core element of continuity was the
presence of a strong vincolo esterno—external constraint—which pressured
the government to engage in reform. But the pension reform
is also novel in two key respects. First, it was the only successful
unilateral welfare reform in two decades (Silvio Berlusconi’s previous
such attempt in 1994 having contributed to the collapse of his government).
In contrast to the social pacts of the 1990s, the unions were
not co-decision-makers in 2004. The major players, instead, were the
partners of the governing coalition.
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