Spring 2013 Colloquia

Note: additional events will be added as the Spring Colloquium Series is finalized.

Monday, January 28, 2013 | 12pm - 1pm


‘Low Wage Work and Minimum Wages in Germany’

Gerhard Bosch, University Duisburg-Essen, Director of the Institute for Work, Skills and Training

In international comparisons Germany has long been seen as a country with comparatively narrow wage dispersion and only a limited proportion of low-paid workers. Since the mid-1990s, the low-wage sector has grown considerably and has now almost reached the share seen in the USA. The main reason is the vulnerability of the German system of collective agreements to outside competition. Since there are no binding minimum wage thresholds (as a result of a statutory minimum wage or generally binding collective agreements), it is possible to pay wages below the industry rates by leaving or not joining the employers organizations or outsourcing activities into non-covered companies.

The introduction of a statutory national minimum wage has been rejected by the government until now. However, collectively agreed minimum wages at industry level can be declared generally binding in response to an application by the two sides of industry. Until now 15 industries have minimum wages. In eight of these industries, the effects of the minimum wages on employment, competiveness and working conditions have now been evaluated. The eight studies show no disemployment effects, even in East-Germany where the “bite” of the MW’s was high. In Eastern Germany, the minimum wages led to a compression of wages around the minimum wage. In some cases, there were negative ripple effects as a result of relatively slight increases in wages above the minimum wage. The state was successful in monitoring the implementation of the minimum rates but failed when it came to enforcing the higher minimum rates for skilled workers in East-Germany. In some industries, the introduction of minimum wages has revitalised collective bargaining (e.g. for electricians and painters and decorators).

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Monday, February 4, 2013 | 12pm - 1pm

Matteo Richiardi

‘Are Flexible Workers More Insecure? An Integrated Approach Based on Micro-data’

Matteo Richiardi, University of Turin, Italy

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Monday, February 11, 2013 | 12pm - 1pm

Vicky Lovell

‘San Francisco’s Paid Sick Leave Ordinance: Employers’ and Workers’ Views of Its Impact’

Vicky Lovell, Institute for Women's Policy Research

In November 2006, San Francisco voters approved an ordinance requiring San Francisco employers to provide paid sick leave to all their workers – the first such mandate in the U.S. This seminar will provide an overview of the campaign for paid sick leave and present survey findings on how San Francisco employers and workers have been affected by the ordinance.

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Monday, February 25, 2013 | 12pm - 1pm

Miranda Dietz

‘Enforcement of Labor Standards’

Miranda Dietz, CLRE (Center for Labor Research & Education), IRLE

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Monday, March 11, 2013 | 12pm - 1pm

Annette Bernhardt

‘When Employers Go Rogue: Unregulated Work and Policies to Raise Standards in the US Labor Market’

Annette Bernhardt, NELP (National Employment Law Project


» Employers Gone Rogue Paper PDF
» The Role of Labor Market Regulation in Rebuilding Economic Opportunity in the U.S. PDF

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Monday, March 18, 2013 | 12pm - 1pm

Samuel Muehlemann

‘The Structure of Hiring Costs in Germany - Evidence from Firm-level Data’

Samuel Muehlemann, Economics, University of Berne

» Structure of Hiring Costs Paper PDF

In Germany, hiring costs for filling a vacancy are substantial, ranging on average from 7 to 14 weeks of wage payments. Moreover, the structure of hiring costs is convex, implying that hiring additional workers in a given period becomes increasingly expensive. Labor market institutions also affect hiring costs. While hiring costs in firms with collective bargaining coverage do not significantly differ from other firms, we find that worker representation at the firm level increases hiring costs by more than 30%. The results are also relevant for recent policies aimed at reducing unemployment. In Germany, short-time work (Kurzarbeit) is a widely used policy instrument for preventing firms from firing workers, enabling a firm to employ workers at reduced working hours. Under this program, the government covers part of the wage bill, thereby providing financial incentives for a firm not to lay off employees during a recession. Thus while our findings help to explain why a firm has its own incentives to hoard labor, the results also help to quantify possible benefits of short-time work policies (i.e., saved resources on future hiring costs).

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Monday, April 1, 2013 | 12pm - 1pm

Paul Ryan

‘Apprentice Pay in Metalworking in Britain, Germany and Switzerland: Institutions, Market Forces and Market Power’

Paul Ryan, Economics, University of Cambridge

Trainee pay is central to the economics of work-based training. The pay of metalworking apprentices is high in Britain, middling in Germany, and low in Switzerland, despite the similarity of training programmes in the three countries. This paper analyses these differences in trainee pay using fieldwork evidence and survey data. A range of potential determinants is identified, drawing on both economic and institutionalist theories. Human capital theory focuses on differences in pay in markets for unskilled and skilled labour. Several institutional attributes – including collective bargaining, employer co-ordination, upper-secondary education, and modes of public subsidy – are seen to influence apprentice pay, operating through supply, demand and price setting in markets for training places. Institutional support for apprenticeship training appears to involve important complementarities in both Germany and Switzerland, by contrast to a less coherent and more market-driven approach in Britain.

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Monday, April 15, 2013 | 12pm - 1pm

Louis-Philippe Beland

Political Parties and Labor Market Outcomes. Evidence from U.S. States

Louis-Philippe Beland, Economics, University of Montreal, Canada

This paper estimates the causal impact of partisan allegiance (Republican or Democratic) of U.S. governors on labor market outcomes. I match data from gubernatorial elections with data from March Current Population Survey (CPS) for income years 1977 to 2008, and eliminate the endogeneity of election outcomes from labor market conditions by using a regression discontinuity design. I find that Democratic governors are associated with lower average individual earnings. I provide evidence that this is driven by a change in workforce composition following an expansion in employment of workers with low and medium earnings. I also find that Democratic governors cause a reduction in the racial earnings gap between Black and White workers through an increase in the annual hours worked by Blacks relative to Whites. I then explore policies to explain the results. Over a wide range of models, controls and specifications, the estimates are consistent and robust.

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Monday, April 22, 2013 | 12pm - 1pm

Jerome Karabel

‘Health and Happiness in Wealthy Democracies: A Comparative Analysis’

Jerome Karabel, Sociology, UC Berkeley


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Monday, April 29, 2013 | 12pm - 1pm

Michael Wilson

From Publication to Public Action: Lessons learned from the Berkeley Center for Green Chemistry

Michael Wilson, Labor Occupational Health Program, School of Public Health

» Public Understanding of Science PDF

Over the last century, industrial chemicals have become ubiquitous in materials, products, and manufacturing processes used throughout society. Each year, about 34 million metric tons of chemical substances are produced in, or imported into, the United States every day. While the widespread use of industrial chemicals has contributed greatly to economic growth and improvements in life expectancy and living conditions, it has also produced an array of health and environmental problems that are affecting societal sustainability. Over the next 25 years, global chemical production is projected to double, rapidly outpacing the rate of population growth. A deep reorientation of the material basis of society is needed; this approach is captured in the principles of green chemistry.

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All events are located at the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, 2521 Channing Way, Berkeley, CA.

TO ATTEND AN EVENT, PLEASE R.S.V.P. Myra Armstrong, zulu2@berkeley.edu