Individuals in the World (Homeworker Helper Book 14)

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A rise in unemployment benefits shifts the best response curve to the right, so it has the opposite effects. Economic policies can alter both the size of the unemployment benefit and the extent of unemployment and hence the duration of a spell of unemployment. These policies are often controversial. Suppose that, with the status quo best response curve in Figure 6.

If unemployment rose:. The idea that employment rents are an incentive for employees to work harder is illustrated in a study by Edward Lazear an economic advisor to former US President George W. Bush and his co-authors. They investigated a single firm during the global financial crisis, to see how the managers and workers reacted to the turbulent economic conditions. The firm specializes in technology-based services such as insurance-claims processing, computer-based test grading, and technical call centres, and operates in 12 US states. The nature of the work made it easy for the management of the firm to track the productivity of workers, which is a measure of worker effort.

When unemployment rose, workers could expect a longer spell of unemployment if they lost their job. Firms did not use their increased bargaining power to lower wages as they could have, fearing the reaction of their employees. Lazear and his co-authors found that, in this firm, productivity increased dramatically as unemployment rose during the financial crisis.

One possible explanation is that average productivity increased because management fired the least productive members of the workforce. But Lazear found that the effect was more due to workers putting in extra effort. We would predict from our model that the best response curve would have shifted to the left as a result of the recession. This meant that unless employers lowered wages substantially workers would work harder. Apparently, this is what happened.

Our model shows that employers could have cut wages, while sustaining an employment rent sufficient to motivate hard work. An earlier recession provided another insight that helps to explain their reluctance to reduce wages in the crisis. Truman Bewley, an economist, was puzzled when he saw only a handful of firms in the northeast of the US cutting wages during the recession of the early s.

Bewley interviewed more than employers, labour leaders, business consultants, and careers advisors in the northeast of the US. He found that employers chose not to cut wages because they thought it would hurt employee morale, reducing productivity and leading to problems of hiring and retention. They thought it would ultimately cost the employer more than the money they would save in wages.

Use the best response diagram to sketch the results found by Lazear and co-authors in their study of a firm during the global financial crisis. Is there a reason why a firm might not cut wages during a recession? Think about the research of Truman Bewley and the experimental evidence about reciprocity in Unit 4. At the start of this unit, we discussed the decision by many clothing companies to outsource production to Bangladesh and other low-wage economies.

Show your results in a single diagram. Even in capitalist economies, some business organizations have an entirely different structure to the one we have been analysing: their workers are the owners of the capital goods and other assets of the company, and they select managers who run the company on a day-to-day basis. This form of business organization is called a worker-owned cooperative or cooperative firm. One well-known example of a cooperative is the large British retailer John Lewis Partnership , founded in and held in trust for its employees since Every employee is a partner, and employee councils elect five out of seven members of the company board.

Worker-owned cooperatives are hierarchically organized, like conventional firms, but the directives issued from the top of the hierarchy come from people who owe their jobs to the worker-owners. Other than this, the main differences between conventional firms and worker-owned cooperatives are that the cooperatives need fewer supervisors and other management personnel to ensure that the worker-owners work hard and well. Fellow worker-owners will not tolerate a shirking worker because the shirker is reducing the profit share of the other workers.

Reduced need for the supervision of workers is among the reasons that worker-owned cooperatives produce at least as much if not more per hour than their conventional counterparts. Inequalities in wages and salaries within the company, for example between managers and production workers, are also typically less in worker-owned cooperatives than in conventional firms.

And worker-owned cooperatives tend not to lay off workers when the economy goes into recession, offering their worker-owners a kind of insurance often they cut back on the hours of all workers rather than terminating the employment of some. Case studies show that in those unusual companies owned primarily by the workers themselves, work is done more intensely with less supervision. There have been many attempts to establish other types of business organization throughout recent history, but borrowing the funds to start and sustain worker-owned companies is often difficult because, as we will see in Unit 10, banks are often reluctant to lend funds except at high interest rates to people who are not wealthy.

Charles Fourier — , a philosopher in France, envisioned a utopian world in which people would live in communities of between 1, and 1, people, called phalanxes. Fourier imagined that members would do all the industrial, craft, and agricultural activity, and would work hard because they did the jobs they liked. Who would clean the sewers and toilets, or put manure on gardens? Fourier suggested giving these jobs to children who love playing with dirt!

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Dozens of phalanxes existed in the mid-nineteenth century, with more than 40 in the US alone. John Stuart Mill — was one of the most important philosophers and economists of the nineteenth century. Mill thought that the structure of the typical firm was an affront to freedom and individual autonomy. Attributing the conventional employer-employee relationship to the poor education of the working class, he predicted that the spread of education, and the political empowerment of working people, would change this situation:.

The Principles of Political Economy , This leads to the existence of employment rents. If they had been able to write a complete contract, the situation would have been quite different. The employer could have offered her an enforceable contract specifying both the wage and the exact level of effort she should provide, and if these terms were acceptable to her, she would have agreed and worked as required. To maximize his profit he would have chosen a contract that was only just acceptable, so she would not have earned any rents.

This example is not unusual. In practice, all employment relationships are governed by incomplete contracts. Employment contracts often do not even bother to mention that the worker should work hard and well. And there are many other ways in which we interact without a complete contract:. Thinking about some examples of economic interactions, we can see that there are several reasons for the absence of a complete contract:. Many contractual relationships can be modelled in the same way, as a game between two players, whom we call the principal and the agent, who face a conflict of interest.

These are known as principal—agent problems. In the case of Maria and her employer, the employer is the principal. He would like to offer Maria, the agent, an employment contract, and she wants the job, but the amount of effort she will provide cannot be specified in the contract because it is not verifiable.

This is a problem because there is a conflict of interest: he would prefer her to work hard, whereas Maria prefers an easy life. In short: a hidden action problem occurs when there is a conflict of interest between the principal and the agent over some action that may be taken by the agent, and this action cannot be subjected to a complete contract. Information is verifiable if it can be used in court to enforce a contract.

Non-verifiable information, such as hearsay, cannot be used to enforce contracts. We study the banker-borrower principal—agent model in Unit For each of the following examples, explain who is the principal, who is the agent, and what aspects of their interaction are of interest to each and are not covered by a complete contract. To understand the role of the firm, we view it not only as an actor, but also a stage on which three sets of actors owners, managers, and employees interact.

Principal—agent models help us understand how firms work by identifying the consequences of the conflicts of interest between the actors, when these cannot be resolved by complete contracts. Employment contracts are incomplete: they can cover hours and some working conditions, but not the effort provided by the employee, which is not verifiable. Workers receive an employment rent, which motivates them to work hard and deters them from quitting.

When all employers set wages in this way, there will be involuntary unemployment in the economy. Herbert A. Journal of Economic Perspectives 5 2 : pp. Econometrica 19 3. These two books describe the property rights, authority structures, and market interactions that characterize the modern capitalist firm. Oliver E. The Economic Institutions of Capitalism. Ronald H. Economica 4 16 : pp. American Economic Review 82 4 : pp. Karl Marx. The Communist Manifesto. Edited by Friedrich Engels. London: Arcturus Publishing. Capital: A Critique of Political Economy.

Alan B. Krueger and Alexandre Mas. Barbara Ehrenreich. New York, NY: St. Polly Toynbee. Hard Work: Life in Low-pay Britain. London: Bloomsbury Publishing. Harry Braverman and Paul M. Lori G. Journal of Economic Perspectives 12 1 : pp. Kenneth A. Couch and Dana W. Louis Jacobson, Robert J. Lalonde, and Daniel G. The American Economic Review 83 4 : pp. Edward P. Lazear, Kathryn L. Shaw, and Christopher Stanton. Journal of Labor Economics 34 S1 Part 2 : pp.

Truman F. During the twentieth century, worker-owned plywood producers successfully competed with traditional capitalist firms in the US. John Pencavel. The knowledge-based economy is creating new forms of firms, neither capitalist nor worker-owned. John Stuart Mill. On Liberty.

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Mineola, NY: Dover Publications. Principles of Political Economy. New York: Oxford University Press. Unit 6 The firm: Owners, managers, and employees Themes and capstone units Global economy Inequality Innovation Politics and policy. Question 6. A labour contract transfers ownership of the employee from the employee to the employer.


The office where the employee works is a relation-specific asset, because the employee cannot use it after leaving the firm. In a labour contract, one side of the contract has the power to issue orders to the other side, but this power is absent from a sale contract. A firm is a structure that involves decentralization of power to the employees. That would be slavery. A labour contract grants the firm the authority to direct the activities of the employee during specific times. The office is not a relation-specific asset, because after the relationship ends another employee can use it, so it still has value to the firm.

A labour contract gives the employer the authority to direct the activities of the employee, whereas a sale contract transfers property rights and does not bind the parties to further actions. Firms represent a concentration of economic power in the hands of the owners and managers. When the ownership and control of a firm is separated, the managers become the residual claimants. It is effective for shareholders to monitor the performance of the management, in a firm owned by a large number of shareholders.

The shareholders are the residual claimants. Managers may choose to take actions that provide benefits for themselves at the expense of the owners. Such performance-related pay is a common method of incentivizing managers to maximize the value of their firm. When there are many shareholders, there is not only a coordination problem but also a free-rider problem, where every shareholder relies on others to do the costly monitoring and hence no monitoring is undertaken as a result. The firm cannot contract an employee not to leave.

The firm cannot specify every eventuality in a contract. The firm is unable to observe exactly how an employee is fulfilling the contract. The contract is unfinished. It may be costly for the firm if the employee leaves, but employees retain the right to do so. Since the firm does not know all the tasks it will require of an employee, the contract is necessarily incomplete. Employment contracts are usually long-term. An incomplete contract is not one that is unfinished, but rather one that does not completely specify every relevant aspect of the relationship.

In a job that provides many benefits, such as housing and medical insurance. In an economic boom, when the ratio of job-seekers to vacancies is low. When the worker is paid a high salary because she is a qualified accountant and there is a shortage of accountancy skills. If the employee loses the job, all these benefits would be lost, so the economic rent from employment is high. The cost of job loss is low, because it would be easy to find another job.

Therefore, the economic rent is low. A qualified accountant will be able to find other jobs easily at a similar salary, so the economic rent is low. This worker is paid a high salary because of firm-specific assets that will be lost if she leaves. Other firms would pay a lower salary at least initially so the economic rent is high.

Politics and policy. This is the net hourly benefit of being employed compared with unemployment. This is the wage at which Maria is just willing to forgo her unemployment benefits for a job but it is not enough to make her put in effort! Over the range of wages shown in the figure, Maria would never exert the maximum possible effort per hour. Increasing effort from 0. If duration increases to 50 weeks, the cost of job loss is higher, so Maria will work harder for the same wage.

The maximum level of effort would not be provided over the wage range shown. When effort is lower, a smaller wage rise is required to increase it by 0. According to this figure: Along the isocost line tangent to the best response curve, doubling of the per-hour effort from 0. The slope of each isocost line is the number of units of effort per dollar. Points C and A both represent Nash equilibria because they are on the best response curve.

Along the isocost line, doubling effort requires doubling the wage. The cost of effort would not change, so profit would not change either. If unemployment benefits are increased, the minimum cost of a unit of effort for the employer will rise. If workers continue to receive benefits however long they remained unemployed, an increase in the level of unemployment will have no effect on the best response curve.

An increase in unemployment benefits shifts the best response curve to the right. The employer will no longer be able to reach the isocost line tangent to the original best response curve, so the cost of effort must rise. In periods of high unemployment, the cost of job loss is higher. At any given wage level, employees will choose higher effort to reduce the chance of losing their jobs. In this case, an increase in the level of unemployment would not affect the reservation wage, but it would increase the cost of job loss so the best response curve will change.

At the reservation wage, the employee is indifferent between employment and unemployment, and would exert no effort. So a change in the disutility of effort would have no effect. Inequality Politics and policy. Henry Hansmann. The Ownership of Enterprise. Chetkovich , Carol.

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Others may feel the training will be boring and a waste of their time. Having this feedback gives the trainer a good snapshot of how to approach the employees, where to focus, and where to anticipate questions or concerns.

6.2 Other people’s money: The separation of ownership and control

By having that information ahead of time, the trainer might even be able to tailor the material. Setting and limiting expectations is one way the trainer can keep remote call centre employees focused. He or she will also have a better understanding of whether employees have completed the expected goal by the end. The last thing a company should spend money on is ineffective training that no one will remember. Research from Washington University shows that people who read material and then answer questions about it retain the information better than those who simply re-read it.

With this in mind, ask trainees to demonstrate their comprehension. A traditional quiz may not help employees remember how to operate the system. It will allow the trainer to give call centre employees a scenario to demonstrate their new knowledge. A third option to help trainees retain the information is a video. Have each trainee record a selfie video and share it with the trainer.


It may seem silly and self-conscious, but the science is clear: Studies show talking out loud makes a memory distinctive. That distinctiveness may help workers remember and use the information more effectively. Once remote training begins, the interactive tone becomes critical.