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Civil Society and the State: The Interplay between Cooperation and Minimum Wage Regulation

  • Cahuc, Pierre
  • Algan, Yann
  • Aghion, Philippe

In a cross-section of countries, state regulation of labor markets is strongly negatively correlated with the quality of labor relations. In this paper, we argue that these facts reflect different ways to regulate labor markets, either through the state or through the civil society, depending on the degree of cooperation in the economy. We rationalize these facts with a model of learning of the quality of labor relations. Distrustful labor relations lead to low unionization and high demand for direct state regulation of wages. In turn, state regulation crowds out the possibility for workers to experiment negotiation and learn about the potential cooperative nature of labor relations. This crowding out effect can give rise to multiple equilibria: a “good†equilibrium characterized by cooperative labor relations and high union density, leading to low state regulation; and a “bad†equilibrium, characterized by distrustful labor relations, low union density and strong state regulation of the minimum wage.

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Paper provided by Harvard University Department of Economics in its series Scholarly Articles with number 3226957.

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Date of creation: 2009
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published in Mimeo, Harvard
Handle: RePEc:hrv:faseco:3226957
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