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Labor Adjustment under Different Institutional Structures: A Case Study of Germany and the United States

In: Institutional Frameworks and Labor Market Performance: Comparative Views on the U.S. and German Economies

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Abstract

Like most Western European countries, Germany stringently regulates dismissals and layoffs. Critics contend that this regulation raises the costs of employment adjustment and hence impedes employers' ability to respond to fluctuations in demand. Other German labor policies, however, most especially the availability of unemployment insurance benefits for those on short time, facilitate the adjustment of average hours per worker in lieu of layoffs. Building on earlier work, we compare the adjustment of employment, hours and inventories to demand shocks in the German and U.S. manufacturing sectors. We find that, in the short run, whereas U.S. employers rely principally on the adjustment of employment levels to respond to demand shocks, German employers rely principally on the adjustment of average hours per worker. The adjustment of overall labor input is generally similar in the two countries. Short-time work makes a very important contribution to short-run hours adjustment in Germany. We find little evidence that inventories help to buffer demand fluctuations in either country. Our findings suggest that, given appropriate supporting institutions, strong worker job security can be compatible with employers' need for flexibility in staffing levels.

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This chapter was published in: Friedrich Buttler & Wolfgang Franz & Ronald Schettkat & David Soskice (ed.) Institutional Frameworks and Labor Market Performance: Comparative Views on the U.S. and German Economies, Routledge, pages 285-315, 1995.

This item is provided by W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research in its series Book chapters authored by Upjohn Institute researchers with number snhkga19952.

Handle: RePEc:upj:uchaps:snhkga19952

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Keywords: wage labor adjutment; labor supply; Germany;

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References

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  1. Katharine G. Abraham & Susan N. Houseman, 1994. "Does Employment Protection Inhibit Labor Market Flexibility? Lessons from Germany, France, and Belgium," Book chapters authored by Upjohn Institute researchers, in: Rebecca M. Blank (ed.), Social Protection Versus Economic Flexibility: Is There a Trade-off?, pages 59-93 W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
  2. Burdett, Kenneth & Wright, Randall, 1989. "Unemployment Insurance and Short-Time Compensation: The Effects on Layoffs, Hours per Worker, and Wages," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(6), pages 1479-96, December.
  3. Topel, Robert H, 1982. "Inventories, Layoffs, and the Short-Run Demand for Labor," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(4), pages 769-87, September.
  4. Lawrence F. Katz & Bruce D. Meyer, 1991. "Unemployment Insurance, Recall Expectations, And Unemployment Outcomes," NBER Working Papers 2594, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Alan S. Blinder & Louis J. Maccini, 1991. "Taking Stock: A Critical Assessment of Recent Research on Inventories," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 5(1), pages 73-96, Winter.
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Cited by:
  1. Mares, Isabela, 1996. "Firms and the welfare state: the emergence of new forms of unemployment," Discussion Papers, Research Unit: Economic Change and Employment FS I 96-308, Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB).
  2. Reich, Michael, 2012. "The Rising Strength of Management, High Unemployment and Slow Growth: Revisiting Okun’s Law," Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, Working Paper Series qt8sc8s1z1, Institute of Industrial Relations, UC Berkeley.
  3. Klinger, Sabine & Wolf, Katja, 2008. "What explains changes in full-time and part-time employment in Western Germany? : a new method on an old question," IAB Discussion Paper 200807, Institut für Arbeitsmarkt- und Berufsforschung (IAB), Nürnberg [Institute for Employment Research, Nuremberg, Germany].
  4. Leo Bonato & Lusine Lusinyan, 2004. "Work Absence in Europe," IMF Working Papers 04/193, International Monetary Fund.
  5. Pointner, Wolfgang, 2006. "Employment Protection Regulations and Their Impact on Employment," Monetary Policy & the Economy, Oesterreichische Nationalbank (Austrian Central Bank), issue 3, pages 44–57.
  6. McGinnity, Frances & Mertens, Antje, 2002. "Fixed-term contracts in East and West Germany: Low wages, poor prospects?," SFB 373 Discussion Papers 2002,72, Humboldt University of Berlin, Interdisciplinary Research Project 373: Quantification and Simulation of Economic Processes.
  7. Lacroix, Robert, 1997. "Mondialisation, emploi et chômage," L'Actualité Economique, Société Canadienne de Science Economique, vol. 73(4), pages 629-641, décembre.
  8. Eger, Thomas, 2003. "Opportunistic termination of employment contracts and legal protection against dismissal in Germany and the USA," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(4), pages 381-403, December.
  9. repec:cdl:indrel:qt35g487jh is not listed on IDEAS

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