Unions and Productivity, Financial Performance and Investment: International Evidence
If the presence of a union in a workplace or firm raises the pay level, unless productivity rises correspondingly, financial performance is likely to be worse. If the product market is uncompetitive this might imply a simple transfer from capital to labour with no efficiency effects, but is probably more likely to lead to lower investment rates and economic senescence. Therefore the impact of unions on productivity, financial performance and investment is extremely important. This paper distils evidence on such effects from six countries: USA, Canada, UK, Germany, Japan and Australia. It is not possible to use theory to predict unambiguously any union effect on productivity because unions can both enhance and detract from the productivity performance of the workplace or firm. The evidence indicates that, in the USA, workplaces with both high performance work systems and union recognition have higher labour productivity than other workplaces. In the UK previous negative links between unions and labour productivity have been eroded by greater competition and more emphasis on 'partnership' in industrial relations but there is a lingering negative effect of multi-unionism, just as there is in Australia. In Germany the weight of the evidence suggests that the information, consultation and voice role of works councils enhances labour productivity particularly in larger firms. In Japan unions also tend to raise labour productivity via the longer job tenures in union workplaces which makes it more attractive to invest in human capital and through the unpaid personnel manager role played by full-time enterprise union officials in the workplace. Unions will reduce profits if they raise pay and/or lower productivity. The evidence is pretty clear cut: the bulk of studies show that profits or financial performance is inferior in unionised workplaces, firms and sectors than in their non-union counterparts. But the world may be changing. A recent study of small USA entrepreneurial firms found a positive association between unions and profits and in the UK the outlawing of the closed shop, coupled with a lower incidence of multi-unionism has contributed to greater union-management cooperation such that recent studies find no association between unions and profits. North American and German evidence suggests that unionisation reduces investment by around one fifth compared with the investment rate in a non-union workplace. In both Canada and the USA this effect is even felt at low levels of unionisation. The UK evidence is mixed: the most thorough study also finds that union recognition depresses investment, but this adverse effect is offset as density rises. The exception is Japan where union recognition goes hand-in-hand with greater capital intensity.
|Date of creation:||Jul 2002|
|Contact details of provider:|| Web page: http://cep.lse.ac.uk/_new/publications/series.asp?prog=CEP|
References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Denny, K. & Nickell, S., 1990.
"Unions And Investment In British Industry,"
Economics Series Working Papers
9992, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
- Booth, Alison L. & Francesconi, Marco & Zoega, Gylfi, 2003.
"Unions, Work-Related Training, and Wages: Evidence for British Men,"
IZA Discussion Papers
737, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
- Alison L. Booth & Marco Francesconi & Gylfi Zoega, 2003. "Unions, Work-Related Training, and Wages: Evidence for British Men," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 57(1), pages 68-91, October.
- Olaf H¸bler & Uwe Jirjahn, 2003.
"Works Councils and Collective Bargaining in Germany: The Impact on Productivity and Wages,"
Scottish Journal of Political Economy,
Scottish Economic Society, vol. 50(4), pages 471-491, 09.
- Hübler, Olaf & Jirjahn, Uwe, 2001. "Works Councils and Collective Bargaining in Germany: The Impact on Productivity and Wages," IZA Discussion Papers 322, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
- Morris M. Kleiner & Jonathan S. Leonard & Adam M. Pilarski, 2002. "How Industrial Relations Affects Plant Performance: The Case of Commercial Aircraft Manufacturing," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 55(2), pages 195-218, January.
- Sandra E. Black & Lisa M. Lynch, 2001.
"How To Compete: The Impact Of Workplace Practices And Information Technology On Productivity,"
The Review of Economics and Statistics,
MIT Press, vol. 83(3), pages 434-445, August.
- Sandra E. Black & Lisa M. Lynch, 1997. "How to Compete: The Impact of Workplace Practices and Information Technology on Productivity," NBER Working Papers 6120, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- S Black & L Lynch, 1997. "How to Compete: The Impact of Workplace Practices and Information Technology on Productivity," CEP Discussion Papers dp0376, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
- S. Black & L. Lynch, 1997. "How to compete: the impact of workplace practices and information technology on productivity," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 20298, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
- Lisa M Lynch & Sandra E Black, 2002. "How to Compete: The Impact of Workplace Practices and Information Technology on Productivity," Working Papers 02-04, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
- F. Green & Stephen Machin & D. Wilkinson, 1996.
"Trade unions and training practices in British workplaces,"
LSE Research Online Documents on Economics
20684, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
- Francis Green & Stephen Machin & David Wilkinson, 1999. "Trade Unions and Training Practices in British Workplaces," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 52(2), pages 179-195, January.
- F Green & Stephen Machin & D Wilkinson, 1996. "Trade Unions and Training Practices in British Workplaces," CEP Discussion Papers dp0278, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
- John Pencavel, 2003.
"The Surprising Retreat of Union Britain,"
NBER Working Papers
9564, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Bean, Charles R & Crafts, Nicholas, 1995. "British Economic Growth Since 1945: Relative Economic Decline .... and Renaissance?," CEPR Discussion Papers 1092, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
- John Addison & Stanley Siebert & Joachim Wagner & Xiangdong Wei, 2000. "Worker Participation and Firm Performance: Evidence from Germany and Britain," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 38(1), pages 7-48, 03.
- Brown, Charles & Medoff, James, 1978. "Trade Unions in the Production Process," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(3), pages 355-378, June.
- Fitzroy, Felix R & Kraft, Kornelius, 1987. "Efficiency and Internal Organization: Works Councils in West German Firms," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 54(216), pages 493-504, November.
- Stephen Machin & M Stewart, 1995.
"Trade Unions and Financial Performance,"
CEP Discussion Papers
dp0242, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
- Morris M. Kleiner & Richard B. Freeman, 2000. "Who Benefits Most from Employee Involvement: Firms or Workers?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(2), pages 219-223, May.
- McNabb, Robert & Whitfield, Keith, 1998. "The Impact of Financial Participation and Employee Involvement on Financial Performance," Scottish Journal of Political Economy, Scottish Economic Society, vol. 45(2), pages 171-187, May.
- Lynch, Lisa M, 1992. "Private-Sector Training and the Earnings of Young Workers," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(1), pages 299-312, March.
- Barry T. Hirsch, 1991. "Labor Unions and the Economic Performance of Unions," Books from Upjohn Press, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, number luepf, 06.
- Lisa M. Lynch & Sandra E. Black, 1998. "Beyond the Incidence of Employer-Provided Training," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 52(1), pages 64-81, October.
- David Metcalf, 1993. "Industrial Relations and Economic Performance," CEP Discussion Papers dp0129, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
- Booth, Alison L, 1991. "Job-Related Formal Training: Who Receives It and What Is It Worth?," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 53(3), pages 281-294, August.
- Anne Hawke & Mark Wooden, 1997. "The 1995 Australian Workplace Industrial Relations Survey," Australian Economic Review, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, vol. 30(3), pages 323-328.
- Addison, John T & Belfield, Clive R, 2000. "The Impact of Financial Participation and Employee Involvement on Financial Performance: A Re-estimation Using the 1998 WERS," Scottish Journal of Political Economy, Scottish Economic Society, vol. 47(5), pages 571-583, November.
- Addison, John T & Schnabel, Claus & Wagner, Joachim, 2001. "Work Councils in Germany: Their Effects on Establishment Performance," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 53(4), pages 659-694, October.
- Laroche, P., 2000. "What do Unions do to Productivity? A Meta-Analysis," Papers 2000-5, Groupe de recherche en économie financière et en gestion des entreprises, Universite Nancy 2.
- Addison, John T & Hirsch, Barry T, 1989. "Union Effects on Productivity, Profits, and Growth: Has the Long Run Arrived?," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 7(1), pages 72-105, January.
- Arulampalam, Wiji & Booth, Alison L, 1996.
"Who Gets Over the Training Hurdle? A Study of the Training Experiences of Young Men and Women in Britain,"
CEPR Discussion Papers
1470, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
- Wiji Arulampalam & Alison L. Booth, 1997. "Who gets over the training hurdle? A study of the training experiences of young men and women in Britain," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 10(2), pages 197-217.
- Carola M. Frege, 2002. "A Critical Assessment of the Theoretical and Empirical Research on German Works Councils," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 40(2), pages 221-248, 06.
- Duncan, Greg J & Stafford, Frank P, 1980. "Do Union Members Receive Compensating Wage Differentials?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 70(3), pages 355-371, June.
- Giorgio Brunello, 1992. "The Effect of Unions on Firm Performance in Japanese Manufacturing," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 45(3), pages 471-487, April.
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:cep:cepdps:dp0539. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ()
If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.
If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.
If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.
Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.