Edited by Keith Townsend and Adrian Wilkinson
Chapter 2: The Future of Employment Relations: Insights from Theory
Bruce E. Kaufman INTRODUCTION The other chapters in this volume examine likely trends and changes in the various institutions, practices and outcomes that comprise the field of employment relations. For the most part, they are empirical-based. To complement them, in this chapter I provide an overview of several theoretical frameworks and models that in some way address and explain changes in employment relations over time. In particular, I canvass these models and frameworks in order to identify the central dependent variables in the field, the most important independent variables, and key contingencies. These relationships, supplemented with projected trends and developments with regard to the key independent variables, are then used to prognosticate about likely contours of change in employment relations in the years ahead. Included are convergence or divergence in employment relations systems in the world economy, future trends in industrial conflict, the future of labor movements and trends in union density, and the relative success of liberal market employment relations systems versus coordinated market employment systems. The terms ‘employment relations’ (ER) and ‘industrial relations’ (IR) are used interchangeably here, and to designate this common area of study I combine ER and IR into a composite acronym EIR. EIR THEORY An ‘employment relations system’ (ERS) is a conceptual construct that shows the factors external and internal to firms and other organizations in an industry, region or nation that shape the characteristics and tenor of their employer–employee relationships (Kaufman, 2004a, 2010a). The central task of EIR theory, in turn, is...
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