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Employer moral hazard and wage rigidity. The case of worker-owned and investor-owned firms

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  • Ermanno Celeste Tortia

    () (University of Trento
    University of Turin and Namur, Belgium
    University of Naples, Federico II)

Abstract

The standard explanation of wage rigidity in principal agent and in efficiency wage models is related to worker risk-aversion. However, these explanations do not consider at least two important classes of empirical evidence: (1) In worker cooperatives workers appear to behave in a less risk averse way than in for profit firms and to accept fluctuating wages; (2) The emerging experimental evidence on the employment contract shows that most workers prefer higher but more uncertain wages to lower fixed wages. Workers do not appear to express a preference for fixed wages in all situations and different ownership forms, in our case worker cooperatives and for-profit firms, behave in different ways when dealing with the trade-off between wage rigidity and employment fluctuations. More specifically, worker cooperatives are characterized, in relative terms, by fixed employment levels and fluctuating wages, while for-profit firms are characterized by fixed wages and fluctuating employment. Our paper reinterprets these stylized facts by focusing on the relationship between wage rigidity and worker risk aversion in light of the presence of employer post contractual opportunism. Contractual incompleteness and private information on the side of the employer can compound in favouring the pursuit of the employer's objectives, when they diverge from the employee's ones. The idea of employer moral hazard is able to disentangle the observed behavioural differences in different ownership forms. By resorting to the standard efficiency wage framework, we show that, in the presence of employer moral hazard, employees in capitalistic firms generally prefer fixed wage, accepting this way a positive risk of lay-off. On the contrary, one of the main functions of fluctuating wages in worker cooperatives is to minimize the risk of lay-off.

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  • Ermanno Celeste Tortia, 2013. "Employer moral hazard and wage rigidity. The case of worker-owned and investor-owned firms," Econometica Working Papers wp46, Econometica.
  • Handle: RePEc:ent:wpaper:wp46
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Ermanno Tortia & Martha Knox Haly & Anthony Jensen, 2014. "Workers' propensity to cooperate with colleagues and the general population: a comparison based on a field experiment," Econometica Working Papers wp52, Econometica.
    2. Luigi Bonatti & Lorenza A. Lorenzetti, 2017. "The quality of employment in the early labour market experience of young Europeans," DEM Working Papers 2017/08, Department of Economics and Management.
    3. Marina Albanese & Cecilia Navarra & Ermanno Tortia, 2017. "Equilibrium unemployment as a worker insurance device: Worker insurance and wage setting in worker owned enterprises," DEM Working Papers 2017/09, Department of Economics and Management.
    4. Tortia, Ermanno & Knox Haly, Martha & Jensen, Anthony, 2013. "From the Neoliberal to the Participatory Firm," AICCON Working Papers 130-2013, Associazione Italiana per la Cultura della Cooperazione e del Non Profit.
    5. albanese, marina & navarra, cecilia & Tortia, Ermanno, 2017. "EQUILIBRIUM UNEMPLOYMENT AS A WORKER INSURANCE DEVICE. Wage setting in worker owned enterprises," MPRA Paper 77031, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    6. Silvia Sacchetti & Marco Faillo, 2017. "The notion of social responsibility across different types of nonprofit and for profit organizations," Econometica Working Papers wp61, Econometica.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    risk aversion; employer contract; moral hazard; asymmetric information; hidden action; risk aversion; income insurance; employment insurance; worker cooperatives;

    JEL classification:

    • J54 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor-Management Relations, Trade Unions, and Collective Bargaining - - - Producer Cooperatives; Labor Managed Firms
    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty
    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • D86 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Economics of Contract Law

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