The German Model of Industrial Relations: Balancing Flexibility and Collective Action
Simon Jäger, Shakked Noy, Benjamin Schoefer
Journal of Economic Perspectives,
We give an overview of the "German model" of industrial relations. We organize our review by focusing on the two pillars of the model: sectoral collective bargaining and firm-level codetermination. Relative to the United States, Germany outsources collective bargaining to the sectoral level, resulting in higher coverage and the avoidance of firm-level distributional conflict. Relative to other European countries, Germany makes it easy for employers to avoid coverage or use flexibility provisions to deviate downwards from collective agreements. The greater flexibility of the German system may reduce unemployment, but may also erode bargaining coverage and increase inequality. Meanwhile, firm-level codetermination through worker board representation and works councils creates cooperative dialogue between employers and workers. Board representation has few direct impacts owing to worker representatives' minority vote share, but works councils, which hold a range of substantive powers, may be more impactful. Overall, the German model highlights tensions between efficiency-enhancing flexibility and equity-enhancing collective action.
Uncovered Workers in Plants Covered by Collective Bargaining: Who Are They and How Do They Fare?
Boris Hirsch, Philipp Lentge, Claus Schnabel
British Journal of Industrial Relations,
Abstract In Germany, employers used to pay union members and non-members in a plant the same union wage in order to prevent workers from joining unions. Using recent administrative data, we investigate which workers in firms covered by collective bargaining agreements still individually benefit from these union agreements, which workers are not covered anymore and what this means for their wages. We show that about 9 per cent of workers in plants with collective agreements do not enjoy individual coverage (and thus the union wage) anymore. Econometric analyses with unconditional quantile regressions and firm-fixed-effects estimations demonstrate that not being individually covered by a collective agreement has serious wage implications for most workers. Low-wage non-union workers and those at low hierarchy levels particularly suffer since employers abstain from extending union wages to them in order to pay lower wages. This jeopardizes unions' goal of protecting all disadvantaged workers.
What Does Codetermination Do?
Simon Jäger, Shakked Noy, Benjamin Schoefer
The authors provide a comprehensive overview of codetermination, that is, worker representation in firms’ governance and management. The available micro evidence points to zero or small positive effects of codetermination on worker and firm outcomes and leaves room for moderate positive effects on productivity, wages, and job stability. The authors also present new country-level, general-equilibrium event studies of codetermination reforms between the 1960s and 2010s, finding no effects on aggregate economic outcomes or the quality of industrial relations. They offer three explanations for the institution’s limited impact. First, existing codetermination laws convey little authority to workers. Second, countries with codetermination laws have high baseline levels of informal worker voice. Third, codetermination laws may interact with other labor market institutions, such as union representation and collective bargaining. The article closes with a discussion of the implications for recent codetermination proposals in the United States.
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International Trade Barriers and Regional Employment: The Case of a No-Deal Brexit
Hans-Ulrich Brautzsch, Oliver Holtemöller
Journal of Economic Structures,
We use the World Input–Output Database (WIOD) combined with regional sectoral employment data to estimate the potential regional employment effects of international trade barriers. We study the case of a no-deal Brexit in which imports to the United Kingdom (UK) from the European Union (EU) would be subject to tariffs and non-tariff trade costs. First, we derive the decline in UK final goods imports from the EU from industry-specific international trade elasticities, tariffs and non-tariff trade costs. Using input–output analysis, we estimate the potential output and employment effects for 56 industries and 43 countries on the national level. The absolute effects would be largest in big EU countries which have close trade relationships with the UK, such as Germany and France. However, there would also be large countries outside the EU which would be heavily affected via global value chains, such as China, for example. The relative effects (in percent of total employment) would be largest in Ireland followed by Belgium. In a second step, we split up the national effects on the NUTS-2 level for EU member states and additionally on the county (NUTS-3) level for Germany. The share of affected workers varies between 0.03% and 3.4% among European NUTS-2 regions and between 0.15% and 0.4% among German counties. A general result is that indirect effects via global value chains, i.e., trade in intermediate inputs, are more important than direct effects via final demand.
Industrial Relations: Worker Codetermination and Collective Wage Bargaining
Steffen Müller, Claus Schnabel
Jahrbücher für Nationalökonomie und Statistik,
Trade unions and employers’ associations, collective bargaining, and employee representation at the workplace are the cornerstones of industrial relations systems in many developed countries. Germany stands out as a country with powerful works councils and a high coverage rate of collective bargaining agreements, supported by encompassing interest groups of employees and employers and by the state. The German case and the perceived stability of its industrial relations regime have attracted considerable attention among researchers and politicians, which also has to do with the country’s high productivity, comparably few strikes, and relatively minor employment problems. However, in recent years industrial relations in many countries including Germany have come under pressure and the fact that there is no obvious and clearly superior alternative to the current regime of industrial and labour relations may not be sufficient to guarantee the survival of the present system.
Non-union Worker Representation, Foreign Owners, and the Performance of Establishments
U. Jirjahn, Steffen Müller
Oxford Economic Papers,
Using German establishment data, this study provides the first econometric analysis on the interaction of establishment-level codetermination and foreign owners. Works councils are associated with higher productivity in domestic-owned establishments while they are associated with lower productivity in foreign-owned establishments. Our results conform to the notion that foreign ownership can involve strong tensions with the institutional patterns of the host country.