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Wage divergence and unemployment: the impact of insider power and training costs


  • Muysken, Joan
  • Zwick, Thomas


The US labour market is characterized by a high skill wage mark-up and low unemployment, while the German labour market has a low skill wage mark-up and a high, mainly unskilled unemployment rate. This paper adds an innovative labour supply explanation to the discussion how these distinct labour market equilibria could arise. Skill-biased technological change induces training needs for the employees willing to work in the skilled labour market and increases relative skill demand. In a simple general equilibrium model, this paper shows that skilled insiders in the USA enjoy higher rents and increase the skilled wage mark-up stronger than in Germany in the wake of skill-biased technological change. The reason is that the unskilled outsiders in the USA do not possess a powerful credible threat to improve their position. This is a consequence from higher training and education costs in the USA for unskilled employees and unemployed. In Germany, the lower skill wage mark-up leads to an increased relative skill demand which is not matched by the skill supply and therefore mis-match unemployment arises.

Suggested Citation

  • Muysken, Joan & Zwick, Thomas, 2000. "Wage divergence and unemployment: the impact of insider power and training costs," ZEW Discussion Papers 00-37, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:zewdip:5320

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Layard, Richard & Nickell, Stephen & Jackman, Richard, 2005. "Unemployment: Macroeconomic Performance and the Labour Market," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199279173.
    2. Peter Berg, 1994. "Strategic Adjustments in Training: A Comparative Analysis of the U.S. and German Automobile Industries," NBER Chapters,in: Training and the Private Sector: International Comparisons, pages 77-108 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Nickell, Stephen & Bell, Brian, 1996. "Changes in the Distribution of Wages and Unemployment in OECD Countries," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(2), pages 302-308, May.
    4. Acemoglu, Daron & Pischke, Jorn-Steffen, 1999. "Beyond Becker: Training in Imperfect Labour Markets," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 109(453), pages 112-142, February.
    5. Olivier J. Blanchard & Lawrence H. Summers, 1986. "Hysteresis and the European Unemployment Problem," NBER Chapters,in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1986, Volume 1, pages 15-90 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    7. Paul Krugman, 1995. "Growing World Trade: Causes and Consequences," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 26(1, 25th A), pages 327-377.
    8. Anthony B. Atkinson, 2000. "The Changing Distribution of Income: Evidence and Explanations," German Economic Review, Verein für Socialpolitik, vol. 1(1), pages 3-18, February.
    9. Freeman Richard B. & Schettkat Ronald, 1999. "The Role of Wage and Skill Differences in US-German Employment Differences / Die Bedeutung von Lohn- und Qualifikationsunterschieden für die deutschen-amerikanischen Beschäftigungsunterschiede," Journal of Economics and Statistics (Jahrbuecher fuer Nationaloekonomie und Statistik), De Gruyter, vol. 219(1-2), pages 49-66, February.
    10. Siebert, Horst, 1997. "Labor market rigidities and unemployment in Europe," Kiel Working Papers 787, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW).
    11. Bartel, Ann P & Sicherman, Nachum, 1998. "Technological Change and the Skill Acquisition of Young Workers," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 16(4), pages 718-755, October.
    12. George E. Johnson, 1997. "Changes in Earnings Inequality: The Role of Demand Shifts," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 11(2), pages 41-54, Spring.
    13. Juhn, Chinhui & Murphy, Kevin M & Pierce, Brooks, 1993. "Wage Inequality and the Rise in Returns to Skill," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(3), pages 410-442, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Rennings, Klaus & Ziegler, Andreas & Zwick, Thomas, 2001. "Employment changes in environmentally innovative firms," ZEW Discussion Papers 01-46, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.

    More about this item


    Mis-match unemployment; training costs; skill biased technological change; Labour supply;

    JEL classification:

    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity


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