NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

An Economic Analysis of Works Councils

Richard B. Freeman, Edward P. Lazear

NBER Working Paper No. 4918
Issued in November 1994
NBER Program(s):   LS

Works councils, found in most Western European economies, are elected bodies of employees with rights to information, consultation, and in some cases co-determination of employment conditions at local workplaces, mandated by law. Many European employers and unions believe that councils improve communication between workers and management, raising social output, while reducing the speed with which decisions are made. This paper analyzes the operation of councils as a means of improving social output by creating more cooperative labor relations. It argues that councils are mandated because the incentive for companies to institute them and delegate them power falls short of the social incentive; that workers provide more accurate information to employers about preferences when councils have some say over how that information is used; and that the communication from employers to workers produces socially desirable worker concessions in bad times that would not occur absent this institution. It compares a jury style random selection of works councilors with selection via elections.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w4918

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