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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Decline in the Standard Employment Contract: Evidence from Ten Advanced Industrial Countries

  • Author(s): Stone, Katherine
  • et al.

There has been a great deal written about change in the nature of employment in advanced industrialized countries over the past two decades, but the economic data to substantiate this claim have been contradictory and/or ambiguous. Some analysts contend thatthe existing data show little or no change in job longevity or incidence of temporary work, thereby casting doubt on the claim that the standard contract of employment has eroded. This article examines the best available data from ten advanced industrial countries -- Australia, Japan, United States, Spain, Italy, Germany, Netherlands, Denmark, United Kingdom and France. It looks at three of specific aspects of the standard employment contract: the growth ofnonstandard employment, the decline in job tenure, and the decline in union density and collective bargaining coverage. Overall, the data reveal changes in national labor marketsconsistent with the thesis that there has been a decline in standard employment practices. In particular, they show an increase in many forms of nonstandard employment in Europe, Japan, and Australia. In the United States, the trajectory concerning nonstandard employment is less clearly demonstrated due to definitional issues that are discussed. Nonetheless, the U.S. datareveal a significant increase in nonstandard employment amongst mid-career and older workers. The data also show a marked pattern of decline in union density and collective bargainingcoverage in all the countries studied.

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