Converging Divergences: Worldwide Changes in Employment Systems

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Exploring recent changes in employment practices in seven industrialized countries (Australia, Britain, Germany, Italy, Japan, Sweden, and the United States) and in two essential industries (automobile and telecommunications), Harry C. Katz and Owen Darbishire find that traditional national systems of employment are being challenged by four cross-national patterns. The patterns, which are becoming ever more prevalent, can be categorized as low-wage, human resource management, Japanese-oriented, and joint team-based strategies. The authors go on to show that these changing employment patterns are closely related to the decline of unions and growing income inequality. Drawing upon plant-level evidence on emerging employment practices, they provide a comprehensive analysis of changes in employment systems and labor-management relations. They conclude that while the variation in employment patterns is increasing within countries, evidence suggests that there is much commonality across countries in the nature of that variation and also similarity in the processes through which variation is appearing. Hence the term converging divergences.