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On the Determinants of Labour Market Institutions: Rent-sharing vs. Social Insurance

  • Agell, J.

What determines the structure of labour market institutions? This paper argues that common explanations based on rent sharing are incomplete; unions, job protection, and egalitarian pay structures may have as much to do with social insurance of otherwise uninsurable risks as with rent sharing and vested interests. In support of this more benign complementary hypothesis the paper presents a range of historical, theoretical, and cross-country regression evidence. The social insurance perspective changes substantially the assessment of often-proposed reforms of European labour market institutions. The benefits from eliminating labour market rigidities have to be set against the costs of reduced coverage of human capital related risk. The paper also argues that it is unclear whether the forces of globalisation, and the new economy, will really force countries to make their labour markets more flexible. While these phenomena may increase the efficiency costs of existing institutions, they may also make people more willing to pay a high premium to preserve institutions that provide insurance.

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Paper provided by Uppsala - Working Paper Series in its series Papers with number 2000:16.

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Length: 41 pages
Date of creation: 2000
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:fth:uppaal:2000:16
Contact details of provider: Postal: UPPSALA UNIVERSITY, DEPARTMENT OF ECONOMICS, S-751 20 UPPSALA SWEDEN.
Phone: + 46 18 471 25 00
Fax: + 46 18 471 14 78
Web page: http://www.nek.uu.se/
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  1. Baqir, Reza & Easterly, William & Alesina, Alberto, 1999. "Public Goods and Ethnic Divisions," Scholarly Articles 4551797, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  2. Dani Rodrik, 1996. "Why Do More Open Economies Have Bigger Governments?," NBER Working Papers 5537, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  4. Sinn, Hans-Werner, 1996. "Social Insurance, Incentives and Risk Taking," Munich Reprints in Economics 19834, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  5. Peter Gottschalk & Timothy M. Smeeding, 1997. "Cross-National Comparisons of Earnings and Income Inequality," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 35(2), pages 633-687, June.
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  9. Nickell, Stephen & Layard, Richard, 1999. "Labor market institutions and economic performance," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 46, pages 3029-3084 Elsevier.
  10. Alan B. Krueger, 2000. "From Bismarck to Maastricht: The March to European Union and the Labor Compact," NBER Working Papers 7456, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Anthony B. Atkinson, 1991. "Social Insurance," The Geneva Risk and Insurance Review, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 16(2), pages 113-131, December.
  12. Rebecca M. Blank & Richard B. Freeman, 1993. "Evaluating the Connection Between Social Protection and Economic Flexib ility," NBER Working Papers 4338, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  14. Paul Geroski & Paul Gregg & John van Reenen, 1995. "Market Imperfections and Employment," OECD Jobs Study Working Papers 5, OECD Publishing.
  15. Varian, Hal R., 1980. "Redistributive taxation as social insurance," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(1), pages 49-68, August.
  16. Krueger, Alan B., 2000. "From Bismarck to Maastricht: The March to European Union and the Labor Compact1," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 7(2), pages 117-134, March.
  17. David H. Romer & Jeffrey A. Frankel, 1999. "Does Trade Cause Growth?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(3), pages 379-399, June.
  18. Horst Siebert, 1997. "Labor Market Rigidities: At the Root of Unemployment in Europe," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 11(3), pages 37-54, Summer.
  19. Easterly, W & Levine, R, 1996. "Africa's Growth Tragedy : Policies and Ethnic Divisions," Papers 536, Harvard - Institute for International Development.
  20. Eaton, Jonathan & Rosen, Harvey S, 1980. "Optimal Redistributive Taxation and Uncertainty," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 95(2), pages 357-64, September.
  21. Wright, Randall, 1986. "The redistributive roles of unemployment insurance and the dynamics of voting," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(3), pages 377-399, December.
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  23. Piore, Michael J, 1987. "Historical Perspectives and the Interpretation of Unemployment," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 25(4), pages 1834-50, December.
  24. Mauro, Paolo, 1995. "Corruption and Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 110(3), pages 681-712, August.
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