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Throwing Out the Ballast: Growth Models and the Liberalization of German Industrial Relations

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Lucio Baccaro, Chiara Benassi

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-115
JournalSOCIO-ECONOMIC REVIEW
Volume15
Issue number1
Early online date24 Dec 2016
DOIs
Accepted/In press4 Oct 2016
E-pub ahead of print24 Dec 2016
Published1 Jan 2017

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Abstract

This article proposes a new interpretation of the evolution of German industrial relations focusing on the interaction between macroeconomic dynamics and industrial relations developments and specifically on ‘growth models’. It argues there has been a shift in the German growth model from growth pulled by net exports and consumption simultaneously to almost exclusively export-led growth. In addition, exports of machinery and transportation equipment have become more price-sensitive, implying that wage and price increases now pose a greater threat to growth than in the past. These macroeconomic developments have spurred a set of adjustments in the industrial relations sphere with export-oriented firms seeking cost reductions and liberalizations. Industrial relations changes have in turn contributed to entrench export-led growth by augmenting the systemic importance of the foreign sector and reducing the relevance of domestic demand. The export-sector has thrived at the expense of real wage stagnation, particularly (but not exclusively) in labour intensive service sectors, and pattern bargaining has lost its ability to redistribute across sectors and boost domestic demand. The new German model is much leaner and meaner than in the past. Contrary to recent literature, its erosion and liberalization are not limited to the service periphery but affect the manufacturing core as well.

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