December 2015

IZA DP No. 9587: Collective Bargaining Systems and Macroeconomic and Microeconomic Flexibility: The Quest for Appropriate Institutional Forms in Advanced Economies

published in: IZA Journal of Labor Policy, 2016, 5: 19

This paper addresses the design of the machinery of collective bargaining from the perspective of the needs of microeconomic and macroeconomic flexibility. In the former context, greater attention is given over to enterprise flexibility than external adjustment. In the latter context, close attention is paid to changes in collective bargaining along the dimensions of bargaining coverage, structure, and coordination, drawing on Visser’s (2013) welcome update of national collective bargaining institutions; on the basis of which, and recent theoretical developments, specific support is adduced for the German, contemporary Scandinavian, and British models. The role of trust in securing micro and macro flexibility also receives attention, leading to the suggestion that the polder or Dutch model might also be expected to populate the firmament of favored collective bargaining arrangements. The paper concludes with a discussion of the policy implications raised by two developments that have been linked to the retreat of collective bargaining, namely heightened earnings dispersion and a shortfall in worker voice.