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Towards a Theory of Work Intensity

  • David Fairris


    (Department of Economics, University of California, Riverside)

There is a conflict of interest between workers and firms over the intensity of labor effort. The labor market may fail, or simply be too costly, as a mechanism for resolving this conflict, and so nonmarket allocative mechanisms embedded in the institutional arrangements of shopfloor governance serve this purpose. Future research should focus on worker voice mechanisms and the behavior of supervisors and informal work groups in order better to understand labor effort outcomes. Which sorts of institutional arrangements result in efficient labor effort also requires further research. Evidence suggests that existing institutional arrangements may be neither the most efficient possible or even efficiency enhancing compared to formerly existing arrangements.

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Article provided by Eastern Economic Association in its journal Eastern Economic Journal.

Volume (Year): 30 (2004)
Issue (Month): 4 (Fall)
Pages: 587-601

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Handle: RePEc:eej:eeconj:v:30:y:2004:i:4:p:587-601
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  1. Richard B. Freeman & Edward P. Lazear, 1995. "An Economic Analysis of Works Councils," NBER Chapters, in: Works Councils: Consultation, Representation, and Cooperation in Industrial Relations, pages 27-52 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Francis Green, 2002. "Why Has Work Effort Become More Intense?," Studies in Economics 0207, School of Economics, University of Kent.
  3. Shapiro, Carl & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1984. "Equilibrium Unemployment as a Worker Discipline Device," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(3), pages 433-44, June.
  4. Ichniowski, Casey & Shaw, Kathryn & Prennushi, Giovanna, 1997. "The Effects of Human Resource Management Practices on Productivity: A Study of Steel Finishing Lines," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(3), pages 291-313, June.
  5. Dickens, William T, 1984. "Differences between Risk Premiums in Union and Nonunion Wages and the Case for Occupational Safety Regulation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(2), pages 320-23, May.
  6. Krueger, Alan B & Summers, Lawrence H, 1988. "Efficiency Wages and the Inter-industry Wage Structure," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 56(2), pages 259-93, March.
  7. Akerlof, George A & Yellen, Janet L, 1990. "The Fair Wage-Effort Hypothesis and Unemployment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 105(2), pages 255-83, May.
  8. Fairris, D. & Alston, L.J., 1990. "Wages And The Intensity Of Labor Effort: Efficiency Wages Versus Compensating Payments," Department of Economics Working Papers 138, Department of Economics, Williams College.
  9. Akerlof, George A, 1982. "Labor Contracts as Partial Gift Exchange," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 97(4), pages 543-69, November.
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