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Exit or voice - wage earner or employee owner?

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The paper investigates the determinants behind the choice between a wage earner position versus employee ownership. These determinants can be found both at the individual level: desire for selfgovernance, risk aversion, human capital, wealth, mobility; company level: size, complexity, heterogeneity of labor, capital intensity, human capital; and society level: labor market dynamics, social security, role of unions and specific institutional rules for employee ownership. The choice is determined by the possibility for wage-earners to adjust working conditions by exit versus the possibilities and costs for employee to use voice as owners of their company. It is predicted that employee ownership will be found in organizations which are small, homogenous, simple in structure, and with high emphasis on specific human capital. The opportunities of globalization with complex organizations crossing borders/cultures will be more difficult to implement in employee owned companies. Specific external institutions (tax incentives, company laws, privatization opportunities) and innovative internal institutions may change the balance in favor of employee ownership. The predictions are not tested, but illustrated by examples especially from recent evidence from Eastern Europe.

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Niels Mygind

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