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Thursday, October 04, 2007



1) "It is alien to the world in which firms operate on the basis of partnerships, group incentives, team production, profit-sharing, and employee-share ownership."

That doesn't sound like a call for work councils, per se. You can argue that some of these features are more present in the UK than Germany and this offsets the work councils...

2) Define "better performing labour market"?
In particular, what's your preferred measure that represents the functioning of the "labour market" as opposed to the general functioning of the economy? Or are we just comparing at a 10000 foot level?

It's also hard to strip out the distortions created by cultural issues. For example, German women have tended to drop out of the labour market after motherhood much more than British ones, but it's arguable whether that is directly a result of the industrial relations system. But it makes a massive difference in the number of part time workers available, which presumably could be construed to oil the wheels of the British labour market?

New Economist

Meh, on 'better' labour market performance I meant the usual - the employment rate and unemployment rate. The UK has a higher employment rate and lower unemployment rate than Germany. Labour productivity per worker is about the same, though German hourly labour productivity is higher than the UK.

My point was that having a whole swag of 'voice' mechanisms - including Works Councils - isn't much use if you don't have a job! Scandinavian economies, on the whole, manage to combine employee voice (including high unionisation rates) and good labour market performance. But not all European countries do, and the presence of one need not imply the other. In Britain there are fewer formal voice mechanisms, but it is easier for people to find another job if they don't like it ('exit', to use Hirschmann's term).

As to profit sharing, group incentives etc, these certainly have a place. But I am not aware of good international comparative data, so don't know how the UK fares vs the rest of Europe. Richard Freeman has recently co-written a paper on this in the UK which you may find of interest: Doing the right thing? Does fair share capitalism improve workplace performance?

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