Research Handbook of Comparative Employment Relations
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Research Handbook of Comparative Employment Relations

Edited by Michael Barry and Adrian Wilkinson

The Research Handbook of Comparative Employment Relations is an essential resource for those seeking to understand contemporary developments in the world of work, and the way in which employment relations systems are evolving around the world.
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Chapter 1: Re-examining Comparative Employment Relations

Michael Barry and Adrian Wilkinson


Michael Barry and Adrian Wilkinson INTRODUCTION Our starting point for this project is the belief that the field of comparative employment relations is underdeveloped and lacks integration. Our intention in producing this book is to provide a comprehensive volume of studies that examines the regulation of the employment relationship across a range of issues, in a wide variety of settings. In addition we want to show how a range of different intellectual perspectives can be usefully employed to help us understand this field. As Bean (1985) noted, the two dominant employment relations comparative approaches are either the selection of a number of countries or of a number of employment relations themes. There are a number of texts that compare employment relations themes across different countries (e.g., Bean, 1985; Eaton, 2000). However, the extent of comparison in some of these texts is patchy or underdeveloped. Some thematic comparative texts deliberately focus on a single (or small selection of) issues(s). Notable among these are editions that examine the comparative fortunes of trade unions, and efforts to revive unions in different national contexts (Fairbrother and Yates, 2003; Frege and Kelly, 2004; Verma and Kochan, 2004; Frege, 2007). Another common theme of comparative studies can be referred to as ‘learning from abroad’. Studies included in this approach have focused on the employment components of so-called high performance work systems, in countries such as Japan and Germany (Eaton, 2000; Jacoby, 2005). The possibility that certain employment practices could be transplanted from one system to...

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