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Trade Unions and the Dispersion of Earnings in British Establishments, 1980-90

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  • Gosling, Amanda
  • Machin, Stephen

Abstract

The relationship between unions and earnings dispersion is examined using establishment-level data from the 1980, 1984 and 1990 Workplace Industrial Relations Surveys. Initially the cross-sectional relationship is examined using the 1990 data. The earnings dispersion of skilled and semi-skilled workers is seen to be lower across unionised establishments than across non-union establishments; secondly, within-establishment earnings dispersion is lower in plants which recognise trade unions for collective bargaining purposes than in those that do not. All three surveys are then utilised to ascertain to what extent the decline in unionization in Britain has contributed to the rise in earnings inequality of semi-skilled workers. There was a sizable and important widening of the gap in the dispersion of earnings across union and non-union plants between 1980 and 1990. For semi-skilled earnings, the decline in the share of plants with recognised unions can account for 11-17% of the rise in earnings inequality over this time period. The importance of falling union activity (as measured by union recognition) seemed to accelerate through the 1980s. Between 1980 and 1984 the relatively small falls in aggregate recognition explain less than 10% of the inequality increase, whereas between 1984 and 1990 about one-quarter of the increase can be accounted for by the fall in unionisation. The majority of the rise in earnings inequality is, however, due to a large increase in earnings dispersion across non-union establishments.
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  • Gosling, Amanda & Machin, Stephen, 1995. "Trade Unions and the Dispersion of Earnings in British Establishments, 1980-90," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 57(2), pages 167-184, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:obuest:v:57:y:1995:i:2:p:167-84
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    Cited by:

    1. N Millward, 1993. "Uses of the Workplace Industrial Relations Surveys by British Labour Economists," CEP Discussion Papers dp0145, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    2. Machin, Stephen, 1997. "The decline of labour market institutions and the rise in wage inequality in Britain," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 41(3-5), pages 647-657, April.
    3. Richard Blundell & Hamish Low & Ian Preston, 2013. "Decomposing changes in income risk using consumption data," Quantitative Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 4(1), pages 1-37, March.
    4. Haile, Getinet & Bryson, Alex & White, Michael, 2015. "Spillover effects of unionisation on non-members' wellbeing," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 35(C), pages 108-122.
    5. Robin Naylor, 1995. "Unions in Decline?," Nordic Journal of Political Economy, Nordic Journal of Political Economy, vol. 22, pages 127-142.
    6. Magda, Iga & Marsden, David & Moriconi, Simone, 2016. "Lower coverage but stronger unions? Institutional changes and union wage premia in Central Europe," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(3), pages 638-656.
    7. Jeff Borland, 1996. "Union Effects on Earnings Dispersion in Australia, 1986–1994," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 34(2), pages 237-248, June.
    8. Aidt, T.S. & Tzannatos, Z., 2005. "The Cost and Benefits of Collective Bargaining," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 0541, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
    9. Philippe Aghion, 2002. "Schumpeterian Growth Theory and the Dynamics of Income Inequality," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(3), pages 855-882, May.
    10. Rodriguez-Gutierrez, Cesar, 2001. "Wage dispersion within firms and collective bargaining in Spain," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 72(3), pages 381-386, September.
    11. John Van Reenen, 2001. "The new economy: reality and policy," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 22(3), pages 307-336, September.
    12. Barrett, Alan & FitzGerald, John & Nolan, Brian, 2002. "Earnings inequality, returns to education and immigration into Ireland," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 9(5), pages 665-680, November.
    13. Rafal Kierzenkowski & Isabell Koske, 2012. "Less Income Inequality and More Growth – Are they Compatible? Part 8. The Drivers of Labour Income Inequality – A Literature Review," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 931, OECD Publishing.
    14. A Charlwood & K Hansen & David Metcalf, 2000. "Unions and the Sword of Justice: Unions and Pay Systems, Pay Inequality, Pay Discrimination and Low Pay," CEP Discussion Papers dp0452, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    15. Thierry Lallemand & François Rycx, 2007. "Employer Size and the Structure of Wages: A Critical Survey," Reflets et perspectives de la vie économique, De Boeck Université, vol. 0(2), pages 75-87.
    16. Amanda Gosling & Thomas Lemieux, 2004. "Labor Market Reforms and Changes in Wage Inequality in the United Kingdom and the United States," NBER Chapters,in: Seeking a Premier Economy: The Economic Effects of British Economic Reforms, 1980-2000, pages 275-312 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    17. Tom Clark & Jayne Taylor, 1999. "Income inequality: a tale of two cycles?," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 20(4), pages 387-408, December.
    18. Derek Leslie & Yonghao Pu, 1996. "What Caused Rising Earnings Inequality in Britain? Evidence from Time Series, 1970–1993," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 34(1), pages 111-130, March.
    19. Jean-Marc Fournier & Isabell Koske, 2012. "Less Income Inequality and More Growth – Are they Compatible? Part 7. The Drivers of Labour Earnings Inequality – An Analysis Based on Conditional and Unconditional Quantile Regressions," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 930, OECD Publishing.
    20. Ensar Yilmaz & Sayin San, 2017. "Wage gap and dispersion in a partially unionized structure in Turkey," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 52(2), pages 577-597, March.
    21. Jeff Borland, 2000. "Economic Explanations of Earnings Distribution Trends in the International Literature and Application to New Zealand," Treasury Working Paper Series 00/16, New Zealand Treasury.
    22. Isabell Koske & Jean-Marc Fournier & Isabelle Wanner, 2012. "Less Income Inequality and More Growth – Are They Compatible? Part 2. The Distribution of Labour Income," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 925, OECD Publishing.

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