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Labor Adjustment Under Different Institutional Structures: A Case Study of Germany and The United States

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  • Susan N. Houseman
  • Katharine G. Abraham

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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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 4548.

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Date of creation: Nov 1993
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:4548

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  1. Soltwedel, Rudiger, 1988. "Employment problems in West Germany - the role of institutions, labor law, and government intervention," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 28(1), pages 153-219, January.
  2. 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.
  3. Katharine G. Abraham & Susan N. Houseman, 1993. "Does Employment Protection Inhibit Labor Market Flexibility? Lessons from Germany, France, and Belgium," NBER Working Papers 4390, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Katz, Lawrence F & Meyer, Bruce D, 1990. "Unemployment Insurance, Recall Expectations, and Unemployment Outcomes," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 105(4), pages 973-1002, November.
  5. 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.
  6. 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. Glosser, Stuart M. & Golden, Lonnie, 1997. "Average work hours as a leading economic variable in US manufacturing industries," International Journal of Forecasting, Elsevier, vol. 13(2), pages 175-195, June.
  2. Kolko, Jed & Neumark, David, 2010. "Does local business ownership insulate cities from economic shocks?," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 67(1), pages 103-115, January.
  3. 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.
  4. 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).
  5. repec:cdl:indrel:qt35g487jh is not listed on IDEAS
  6. 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.
  7. Leo Bonato & Lusine Lusinyan, 2004. "Work Absence in Europe," IMF Working Papers 04/193, International Monetary Fund.
  8. Wolfgang Pointner, 2006. "Employment Protection Regulations and Their Impact on Employment," Monetary Policy & the Economy, Oesterreichische Nationalbank (Austrian Central Bank), issue 3, pages 44–57.
  9. 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.
  10. 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].
  11. Lacroix, Robert, 1997. "Mondialisation, emploi et chômage," L'Actualité Economique, Société Canadienne de Science Economique, vol. 73(4), pages 629-641, décembre.

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