Friday, June 8, 2012

When do employers support minimum wages?

Germany does not have minimum wages, but there is currently a renewed debate about their introduction. As collective bargaining is largely handled at the sectoral level, one idea is to adopt sectoral minimum wages, for example by negotiating them within collective bargaining. In some sectors, there is already an informal wage this way, but this could be formalized. Given this idea of sectoral minimum wages, it is of interest to see which sectors would support them.

Ronald Bachmann, Thomas Bauer and Hanna Kröger use a survey of 800 firms in 8 sectors and uncover some interesting patterns. It looks like minimum wages are most supported where they would raise barriers of entry for competitors. This means that agreeing on a minimum wage is getting very close to cartelization. This is a feature of the fact that negotiations are done at the sectoral level. It would lead to a reduction in the number of firms, and likely to a reduction in employment as well, but for a different reason than usual with minimum wages: the cartelization reduces output and thus the labor force required for production. I suspect that if the minimum wage were set nationwide, though, this kind of support would largely vanish.

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