Edited by Edward N. Wolff
Chapter 11: Measuring Worker Rights and Labor Strength in the Advanced Economies
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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