A paper in Industrial Relations A Journal of Economy and Society performs a meta-analysis of a wide range of studies the impact of trade unions on productivity and finds a complex puzzle.
Studies of countries with strong unions show a solid correlation between unions and high productivity. But studies of workplaces with unions show almost no impact on productivity (either no impact or a slightly negative or positive impact, depending on the country). But an excellent analysis from Stumbling and Mumbling unravels the paradox:
You might wonder how the cross-country evidence shows a positive correlation whereas the cross-workplace evidence generally doesn't. Here's a theory. People will always want better pay and conditions. This is simply because they are human. If they can't achieve these through unions they will try to get them through the ballot box, in the form of legislation.
In this sense, as Philippe Aghion and colleagues show, there can be good and bad equilibria; a good equilibrium in which there are strong unions and little legislation, and a bad one in which there are weak unions and much regulation.
The UK fits their story. Whereas in the 70s businessmen complained about unions, they now whine about minimum wage laws and red tape.
But here's the thing. Regulation is a bad substitute for unions. Regulation is inflexible. Whereas collective bargaining - when done intelligently - can respond to different local conditions.
Unions & productivity [Stumbling and Mumbling]
(via Tim Harford)
(Image: WinnipegGeneralStrike, Wikimedia/Public Domain)
In SoundNet: Learning Sound Representations from Unlabeled Video, researchers from MIT’s computer science department describe their success in using software image-recognition to automate sound recognition: once software can use video analysis to decide what’s going on in a clip, it can then use that understanding to label the sounds in the clip, and thus accumulate […]
The University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab (previously) is one of the world’s leading research centers for cybersecurity analysis, and they are the first port of call for many civil society groups when they are targeted by governments and cyber-militias.
In Does The Online Card Payment Landscape Unwittingly Facilitate Fraud?, a new paper in IEEE Security & Privacy, researchers from the University of Newcastle demonstrate a technique for guessing secruity details for credit-card numbers in six seconds — attackers spread their guesses out across many websites at once, so no website gets enough bad guesses […]
The Pocket Tripod PRO had massive Kickstarter success in 2013, raising almost $85,000 in a single month. But this isn’t just another case of pre-release product hype. This ingenious little device folds out from a credit-card-shaped plastic slab into a sturdy stand with a surprisingly wide range of motion. In portrait orientation, your phone slides […]
Loot Crate is a totally different kind of subscription service that mails subscribers monthly boxes filled with curated geek, pop culture, and gamer paraphernalia. Its cult following awaits a box every month filled with everything from bobble heads to T-shirts to special edition collectibles. But nothing gets Loot Crate fans as excited as the limited […]
The ARMOR-X Mini Flexible Phone Tripod is a smartphone tripod that is designed with flexible legs to rest on virtually any type of surface. Other tripods have proved useless unless I conveniently have a flat surface in front of me, which is why this particular tripod was appealing enough to try out. The ARMOR-X is compact and easy […]