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Unemployment, Wages and Collective Bargaining in the European Union

  • Hein, Eckhard
  • Schulten, Thorsten

The paper questions the predominant view on unemployment and wages in the European Union according to which high unemployment is primarily caused by labour market rigidities, i.e. social institutions and regulations which prevent ?market-clearing? real wage levels and structures. It is shown that the foundations of that view coming either from neo-classical or new-Keynesian theory are not convincing, neither theoretically nor empirically. Analysing the developments in the EU during the last four decades, no strictly inverse relationship between real wage growth and unemployment can be found. On the contrary, persistently high unemployment has had strong adverse effects on nominal wage growth and on the labour income share. Weakened labour union bargaining power and changing collective bargaining strategies have contributed to this result. It is therefore concluded that the current EU economic and employment policies aiming at further wage restraint, wage differentiation and decentralisation of collective bargaining are deeply misguided and have to be replaced by an alternative wage policy in Europe as part of a growth and employment oriented coordination of macroeconomic policies.

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Paper provided by Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaftliches Institut (WSI), Hans-Böckler-Stiftung in its series WSI Discussion Papers with number 128.

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Date of creation: 2004
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Handle: RePEc:zbw:wsidps:128
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  1. Hein, Eckhard & Truger, Achim, 2004. "What ever happened to Germany? Is the decline of the former European key currency country caused by structural sclerosis or macroeconomic mismanagement?," Darmstadt Discussion Papers in Economics 37280, Darmstadt Technical University, Department of Business Administration, Economics and Law, Institute of Economics (VWL).
  2. Truger, Achim & Hein, Eckhard, 2004. "Macroeconomic co-ordination as an economic policy concept : opportunities and obstacles in the EMU," WSI Discussion Papers 125, Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaftliches Institut (WSI), Hans-Böckler-Stiftung.
  3. Eckhard Hein & Achim Truger, 2005. "What ever happened to Germany? Is the decline of the former European key currency country caused by structural sclerosis or by macroeconomic mismanagement?," Macroeconomics 0501007, EconWPA.
  4. Blanchard, O & Katz, L, 1996. "What We Know and Do Not Know about the Natural Rate of Unemployment," Working papers 96-29, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  5. Boeri, Tito & Brugiavini, Agar & Calmfors, Lars (ed.), 2001. "The Role of Unions in the Twenty-first Century: A Report for the Fondazione Rodolfo Debenedetti," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199246588, March.
  6. Eckhard Hein, 2005. "Die NAIRU – eine post-keynesianische Interpretation," Macroeconomics 0501009, EconWPA.
  7. Eckhard Hein & Thorsten Schulten & Achim Truger, 2004. "Wage trends and deflation risks in Germany and Europe," Macroeconomics 0412008, EconWPA.
  8. Schulten, Thorsten, 2004. "Foundations and Perspectives of Trade Union Wage Policy in Europe," WSI Discussion Papers 129, Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaftliches Institut (WSI), Hans-Böckler-Stiftung.
  9. David Soskice & Torben Iversen, 2001. "Multiple Wage Bargaining Systems in the Single European Currency Area," Empirica, Springer, vol. 28(4), pages 435-456, December.
  10. Hein, Eckhard, 2002. "Monetary policy and wage bargaining in the EMU: Restrictive ECB policies, high unemployment, nominal wage restraint and rising inflation," WSI Discussion Papers 103, Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaftliches Institut (WSI), Hans-Böckler-Stiftung.
  11. Christopher Allsopp, 2002. "The Future of Macroeconomic Policy in the European Union," Discussion Papers 07, Monetary Policy Committee Unit, Bank of England.
  12. Dean Baker & Andrew Glyn & David Howell & John Schmitt, 2002. "Labor Market Institutions and Unemployment: A Critical Assessment of the Cross-Country Evidence," SCEPA working paper series. SCEPA's main areas of research are macroeconomic policy, inequality and poverty, and globalization. 2002-17, Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis (SCEPA), The New School.
  13. Hein, Eckhard & Truger, Achim, 2005. "European Monetary Union: nominal convergence, real divergence and slow growth?," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 16(1), pages 7-33, March.
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