Wage coordination and the welfare state: Germany and Japan compared
Is there a relation between welfare state regimes and national wage setting systems? Peter Swenson in his research on the historical dynamics of the US-American and Swedish welfare state has recently claimed that such a relation does indeed exist. The essay aims to check if this also holds true for the German and Japanese case. In the post-war period both countries have established systems of wage-bargaining that are less centralized than the Swedish system, but in which wages are highly coordinated both within and across sectors, and, subsequently, in which wage compression is relatively high as well. Thus, both countries are confronted with the same problems of wage- and welfare-drift and of firms' exit from the 'solidaristic' or coordinated wage setting that are so typical for Sweden. At the same time the German and Japanese welfare state differ from each other in almost all dimensions. Thus, both cases seem to be ideally suited to provide for a plausibility-check of the Swenson hypothesis. The essay reaches the conclusion that there is indeed ample evidence that both the German and the Japanese welfare state contributed critically to the stability of wage coordination in the era of high growth after World War II. They thus have to be understood as an integral part of the German and Japanese post-war growth model.
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