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Fairness in the Labour Market – A Survey of Experimental Results

  • Simon Gächter
  • Ernst Fehr

In this chapter we provide a selective survey of experiments to investigate the potential of social motivations in explaining labour market phenomena. We argue that laboratory experiments are a useful instrument to explore issues in labour market theory and personnel economics. Our starting point is the observation that employment relations are frequently governed by incomplete contracts. We show that the norm of reciprocity that leads to gift exchanges is an effective contract enforcement device under conditions of contractual incompleteness. We then present evidence that gift exchange can explain various labour market phenomena that are puzzles from the viewpoint of standard economic theory. Further issues in the related field of personnel economics that have by now been subjected to an experimental scrutiny concern characteristics of the employment relation and the issues of motivation and incentives systems. We conclude by pointing out the complementary nature of experiments to more conventional methods of data gathering.

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Paper provided by Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich in its series IEW - Working Papers with number 114.

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