Setting labour law's coverage: Between universalism and selectivity

Guy Davidov*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


The question of who is (and who should be) covered by labour law is highly contested and often debated. This article addresses several problems related to the coverage question, and employs some novel concepts as an aid to better understand and analyse these problems. It begins by explaining the different aspects of labour law coverage and how all the branches of government are involved in setting it. It is then argued that we are currently facing a major coverage crisis in labour law. The concepts of universalism and selectivity, long used in the welfare state literature to describe possible methods for the delivery of benefits in terms of their coverage, are introduced and adapted to the labour law context. The article then proceeds to make several arguments by using this new framework. Firstly, a descriptive-historical argument: during the 20th century there was a development from selectivity to universalism in labour law, and then back to selectivity of a different kind (regressive). Secondly, a normative argument: a balance must be struck between universalism and selectivity. Several proposals are offered to assist in achieving a better balance compared to the current situation in many countries. Finally, a critical argument: some proposals to 'expand' labour law beyond the confines of the employment relationship are considered, showing the dangers of extreme universalism.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numbergqu003
Pages (from-to)543-566
Number of pages24
JournalOxford Journal of Legal Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2014


  • Employment law
  • Labour law
  • Legal coverage
  • Selectivity
  • Universalism


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