Hancké, Bob (2012) Worlds apart? Labour Unions, Wages and Monetary Integration in Continental Europe. IHS Political Science Series No. 128, February 2012. [Policy Paper]
This paper examines the problems of the single currency in light of the organization of labour relations in the member-states and their interaction with monetary policies. Continental (western) Europe consists of two very different systems of employment and labour relations, roughly coinciding with 'coordinated market economies‘ (CME) in the north-west of the continent, and 'Mixed Market Economies‘ in the south. These differences in employment relations and wage-setting systems implied that, against the background of a relatively restrictive one-size-fits-all monetary policy in place since 1999, the north-west of the continent systematically improved its competitiveness, while the south lost competitiveness in parallel. Small differences between the two groups of countries at the start of EMU thus were accentuated and, against the background of low growth and an almost closed E(M)U economy, the northern CMEs accumulated current account surpluses while the GIIPS ran into severe balance of payments problems in 2010 and 2011. The sovereign debt crises of 2010-11, which threatened the survival of the Euro-zone itself in November and December 2011, simply reflected these structural imbalances: current account deficits are financed through debt, private and public. The problem with EMU, in other words, is one of current accounts, not fiscal deficits. The paper reconstructs the construction and emergence of this system through an examination of the development of wage-setting systems against the background of monetary integration in Europe since the second oil shock.
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