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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. Easterly, W & Levine, R, 1996. "Africa's Growth Tragedy : Policies and Ethnic Divisions," Papers 536, Harvard - Institute for International Development.
  2. Paul Geroski & Paul Gregg & John van Reenen, 1995. "Market Imperfections and Employment," OECD Jobs Study Working Papers 5, OECD Publishing.
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  4. Hans-Werner Sinn, 1996. "Social insurance, incentives and risk taking," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer, vol. 3(3), pages 259-280, July.
  5. Agell, Jonas & Lommerud, Kjell Erik, 1992. "Union Egalitarianism as Income Insurance," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 59(235), pages 295-310, August.
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  8. Sinn, Hans-Werner, 1995. "A Theory of the Welfare State," CEPR Discussion Papers 1278, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  9. Alberto Alesina & Reza Baqir & William Easterly, 1999. "Public Goods And Ethnic Divisions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 114(4), pages 1243-1284, November.
  10. Varian, Hal R., 1980. "Redistributive taxation as social insurance," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(1), pages 49-68, August.
  11. A. B. Atkinson, 1999. "The Economic Consequences of Rolling Back the Welfare State," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262011719, June.
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  13. Alesina, Alberto & Wacziarg, Romain, 1998. "Openness, country size and government," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(3), pages 305-321, September.
  14. Richard Layard & Stephen Nickell, 1998. "Labour Market Institutions and Economic Performance," CEP Discussion Papers dp0407, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  15. Dani Rodrik, 1998. "Why Do More Open Economies Have Bigger Governments?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 106(5), pages 997-1032, October.
  16. Rebecca M. Blank & Richard B. Freeman, 1994. "Evaluating the Connection between Social Protection and Economic Flexibility," NBER Chapters, in: Social Protection versus Economic Flexibility: Is There a Trade-Off?, pages 21-42 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
  19. 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.
  20. Anthony B. Atkinson, 1991. "Social Insurance," The Geneva Risk and Insurance Review, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 16(2), pages 113-131, December.
  21. 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.
  22. Stephen Machin & Alan Manning, 1992. "Minimum Wages," CEP Discussion Papers dp0080, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  23. 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.
  24. Burda, Michael C, 1995. "Unions and Wage Insurance," CEPR Discussion Papers 1232, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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