What Has Happened to the Quality of Life in the Advanced Industrialized Nations?

What Has Happened to the Quality of Life in the Advanced Industrialized Nations?

Edited by Edward N. Wolff

The contributors to this volume investigate to what extent welfare has increased in the United States over the postwar period and provide a rigorous examination of both conventional measures of the standard of living, as well as more inclusive indices. The chapters cover such topics as: race, home ownership and family structure; the status of children; the consumer price index; a historical perspective on the standard of living; worker rights and labor strength in advanced economies. In addition, they explore two economic systems delivering the goods – the free enterprise system of the United States and the European social welfare state. They then present international comparisons and highlight the relative advantages and disadvantages of these two systems.

Chapter 11: Measuring Worker Rights and Labor Strength in the Advanced Economies

Robert Buchele and Jens Christiansen

Subjects: economics and finance, welfare economics, politics and public policy, public policy, social policy and sociology, sociology and sociological theory

Extract

Robert Buchele and Jens Christiansen* INTRODUCTION Worker rights are important for two reasons. They are important in themselves because they shape our work lives – our job security, autonomy, and voice in the workplace. And they are important because they affect – or are believed to affect, for better or for worse – such macroeconomic outcomes as the unemployment rate, the rate of economic growth, and the distribution of income. Worker rights, as defined in this chapter, are at the very center of the debate over the causes of high unemployment in Europe and are the target of those who advocate the ‘deregulation’ of European labor markets (see OECD 1994b; Mishel and Schmitt 1995; and Buchele and Christiansen 1998). In this chapter, we develop an index that measures the relative strength of worker rights in advanced capitalist economies. Our aim is to project a relatively large number of variables measuring different aspects of worker rights onto a single scale that will allow us to compare worker rights across countries and to analyze their impact on economic well-being and living standards in the advanced nations. The obvious cost of aggregating quantitative measures that reflect diverse labor market institutions and social policies into a single index of worker rights is that we lose the possibility of identifying links between specific institutions and policies and specific social and economic outcomes. But there is an important theoretical rationale for this endeavor, in addition to the practical uses of such an...

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