"Ménage à trois" in a globalizing world: bargaining between firms, low-skilled and high-skilled workers
This paper extends the assessment of the impact of globalization on the bargaining power of employees by taking worker heterogeneity into account. In contrast with previous studies, two separate unions - representing low-skilled and high-skilled workers respectively - are considered. Using Belgian firm-level data, labour bargaining power and relative wage preference have been estimated by skill level. Subsequently regressing these estimates on a set of potential determinants, the bargaining power of low-skilled workers appears to fall with imports and offshoring, whereas the bargaining power of high-skilled workers remains unaffected. In addition, a significant effect of globalization is found on the relative preference of unions for wages over employment, indicating that the effect of globalization on the behaviour of labour unions is more encompassing than frequently assumed. A positive impact of R&D intensity on the bargaining power of low-skilled workers is the only effect related to technological change that is found to be statistically significant.
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