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The Perceived Fairness of Layoffs in Germany: Participation, Compensation, or Avoidance?

  • Christian Pfeifer


This study analyses to what extend and under what circumstances layoffs are accepted in Germany. Principles of distributive justice and rules of procedural justice form the theoretical framework of the analysis. Based on this, hypotheses are generated, which are tested empirically in a telephone survey conducted between East and West Germans in 2004 (n = 3036). The empirical analysis accounts for the different points of views of implicated stakeholders and impartial spectators. Key findings are: (1) The management of a company can increase the acceptance of layoffs if the employees get some participation rights. (2) For impartial spectators generous compensation for those made redundant leads to a higher degree of perceived fairness. But job alliances are not even preferred to layoffs without measures to soften the blow of job loss. (3) Implicated stakeholders accept job alliances and perceive wage cuts as more fair than layoffs. However, compensation does not have the expected impact. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2007

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Article provided by Springer in its journal Journal of Business Ethics.

Volume (Year): 74 (2007)
Issue (Month): 1 (August)
Pages: 25-36

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Handle: RePEc:kap:jbuset:v:74:y:2007:i:1:p:25-36
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  1. Bergemann, Annette & Mertens, Antje, 2004. "Job Stability Trends, Layoffs, and Transitions to Unemployment: An Empirical Analysis for West Germany," IZA Discussion Papers 1368, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Pfeifer, Christian, 2005. "Fairness and the labour market; A theoretical and empirical analysis of layoffs in Germany," Hannover Economic Papers (HEP) dp-328, Leibniz Universität Hannover, Wirtschaftswissenschaftliche Fakultät.
  3. M. Rabin, 2001. "Incorporating Fairness into Game Theory and Economics," Levine's Working Paper Archive 511, David K. Levine.
  4. Rabin, Matthew, 2002. "A Perspective on Psychology and Economics," Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt2wr3z049, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
  5. Gary Charness & David I. Levine, 2000. "When are Layoffs Acceptable? Evidence from a Quasi-Experiment," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 53(3), pages 381-400, April.
  6. Konow, James, 2001. "Fair and square: the four sides of distributive justice," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 46(2), pages 137-164, October.
  7. Rabin, Matthew, 1997. "Psychology and Economics," Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt8jd5z5j2, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
  8. Kahneman, Daniel & Knetsch, Jack L & Thaler, Richard, 1986. "Fairness as a Constraint on Profit Seeking: Entitlements in the Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(4), pages 728-41, September.
  9. von Krogh, Georg & Kameny, Marla, 2002. "Leap Before You Layoff:: Look For Creative Alternatives," European Management Journal, Elsevier, vol. 20(6), pages 664-670, December.
  10. Wolfgang Franz & Friedhelm Pfeiffer, 2003. "Zur ökonomischen Rationalität von Lohnrigiditäten aus der Sicht von Unternehmen," Journal of Economics and Statistics (Jahrbuecher fuer Nationaloekonomie und Statistik), Justus-Liebig University Giessen, Department of Statistics and Economics, vol. 223(1), pages 23-57.
  11. James Konow, 2003. "Which Is the Fairest One of All? A Positive Analysis of Justice Theories," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 41(4), pages 1188-1239, December.
  12. Akerlof, George A, 1982. "Labor Contracts as Partial Gift Exchange," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 97(4), pages 543-69, November.
  13. Chaness, Gary & Levine, David I., 1999. "Changes in the Employment Contract? Evidence from a Quasi-Experiment," Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, Working Paper Series qt4p535308, Institute of Industrial Relations, UC Berkeley.
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