When it comes to analyzing the labor market potential for inclusion of vulnerable workers such as people with mental illnesses or physical disabilities, a number of theories focus on the importance of the political or institutional framework of the welfare state underpinning such a potential for inclusion. Less attention is paid to the elbowroom vulnerable groups themselves are able to carve out in the labor market. Therefore this paper proposes to seek inspiration from stakeholder theory in order to analyze the legitimacy, power and urgency of claims raised by vulnerable workers in the eyes of corporate managers. This analysis is inspired by the principle of ‘who and what really counts’ – a principle coined by one of the founders of modern stakeholder theory, Robert Freeman, to denote the fact that only some groups and only some claims will receive attention from corporate managers.
This paper proposes a novel use and extension of these theories based on a specific analysis of the actions and attitudes of companies (public and private) when it comes to hiring, retaining and caring for employees belonging to vulnerable groups in the labor market. More specifically, the aim of the analysis is to investigate what power, legitimacy and urgency company managers ascribe to four groups of actual or potential employees: Workers with small children, seniors, workers with mental disabilities and workers suffering from mental illnesses. Furthermore we will seek to analyze how these perceptions affect corporate actions when it comes to hiring, retaining and caring for these groups. Data wise, the analysis will be based on a survey to a representative sample of Danish companies distributed during autumn 2010.