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A Theory of the Firm with Non-Binding Employment Contracts

  • Asher Wolinsky

The purpose of this paper is ti develop the theory of the firm to get better understanding of situations in which individual employees enjoy some bargaining power in their relations with the firm, and in which the terms of employment are determined and adjusted through individual contracting and recontracting with the firm. The main elements of the situations studied here are that the employees are not organized, that the employment contracts are nonbinding or at least not for very long, and that the firm has opportunities to replace employees. The paper develops analyzes a dynamic model in which the processes of contarcting and re-contracting between the firm and its employees are intertwined with the dynamic evolution of the firm's workforce. The analysis of the model is somewhat complicated because the employmest level is a non-degenerate state variable that evolves over time and is affected by past decisions. The main analytical results characterize certain important equilibria: the profit maximizing, profit minimizing and stationary equilibria. The unique stationary equilibrium is markedly inefficient: it exhibits inefficient over-employment and the steady state wages coincide with the workers' reservation wage. It confirms earlier results derived by Stole and Zwiebel (1996a,b) in the contextof a static model and shows that they are very robust even when the firm has nearly frictionless hiring opportunities. In contrast, the profit maximizing equilibrium captures a very different pattern. The outcome is nearly efficient and the wage exhibits a mark-up over the reservation wage. The path of the wages exhibits an interesting behavior--it declines sharply when it reaches its steady state level

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Paper provided by Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science in its series Discussion Papers with number 1194.

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Date of creation: Oct 1997
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Handle: RePEc:nwu:cmsems:1194
Contact details of provider: Postal: Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science, Northwestern University, 580 Jacobs Center, 2001 Sheridan Road, Evanston, IL 60208-2014
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Web page: http://www.kellogg.northwestern.edu/research/math/
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  1. Horn, H. & Wolinsky, A., 1988. "Bilateral Monopolies And Incentives For Merger," Papers 410, Stockholm - International Economic Studies.
  2. Matthew O. Jackson & Asher Wolinsky, 1994. "A Strategic Model of Social and Economic Networks," Discussion Papers 1098, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  3. Horn, Henrik & Wolinsky, Asher, 1988. "Worker Substitutability and Patterns of Unionisation," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 98(391), pages 484-97, June.
  4. Stole, Lars A & Zwiebel, Jeffrey, 1996. "Organizational Design and Technology Choice under Intrafirm Bargaining," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(1), pages 195-222, March.
  5. Stole, Lars A & Zwiebel, Jeffrey, 1996. "Intra-firm Bargaining under Non-binding Contracts," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 63(3), pages 375-410, July.
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