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Trade and Race-to-the-bottom Wage Competition


  • Damiaan Persyn


This paper looks at how increasing economic integration affects wage bargaining between unions and firms if firms are internationally mobile. Using a simple NEG model we find that if firms are perfectly mobile, countries are sufficiently symmetric and wages are bargained over at the firm level they are set on the competitive level. For a more centralised bargaining scheme wage demands are made even if firms can perfectly threat to relocate. If countries are asymmetric full agglomeration becomes possible and rent-sharing between unions and firms then occurs as unions are able to appropriate part of the agglomeration rents in form of higher wages. As agglomeration rents are a hump-shaped function of trade freeness in the larger country this implies the same non-monotonic relationship between wages and the level of trade freeness. We then investigate the case where wage bargaining takes place sequentially in each country. The comparative statics of the international Nash-equilibrium in wages show increased international economic integration only leads to tighter international wage competition if countries are sufficiently symmetric. For the asymmetric case the comparative advantage and relative size of the country determine whether and how economic integration leads to lower wages.

Suggested Citation

  • Damiaan Persyn, 2006. "Trade and Race-to-the-bottom Wage Competition," LICOS Discussion Papers 17306, LICOS - Centre for Institutions and Economic Performance, KU Leuven.
  • Handle: RePEc:lic:licosd:17306

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Jakob Roland Munch, 2003. "The Location of Firms in Unionized Countries," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 105(1), pages 49-72, March.
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    5. Luís M B Cabral & José Mata, 2003. "On the Evolution of the Firm Size Distribution: Facts and Theory," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(4), pages 1075-1090, September.
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    8. Baldwin, Richard & Okubo, Toshihiro, 2004. "Heterogeneous Firms, Agglomeration and Economic Geography: Selection and Sorting," CEPR Discussion Papers 4602, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    9. Baldwin, Richard E. & Krugman, Paul, 2004. "Agglomeration, integration and tax harmonisation," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 48(1), pages 1-23, February.
    10. Trefler, Daniel, 1993. "International Factor Price Differences: Leontief Was Right!," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(6), pages 961-987, December.
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    JEL classification:

    • J50 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor-Management Relations, Trade Unions, and Collective Bargaining - - - General
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • F16 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade and Labor Market Interactions

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