L'auteur confronte la théorie micro-économique du salaire à deux problèmes de l'entreprise: la répartition de la main-d'oeuvre en groupe de salariés auxquels correspondent des classes de salaires différents et l'ampleur des disparités de rémunération entre ces catégories.
This article proposes a reexamination of traditional micro-economic wage theory, centered on the formation of wage structure within firms. Two fundamental questions are explored: Why is there a division of workers into wage classes and what factors account for the size of wage differentials between groups of workers?
Starting from the assumption of utility maximization, the author shows that wage differentials derive from employers' attempts to equalize labor cost to labor revenue (productivity) at the margin on the one hand, and from workers' efforts to obtain wage payments compensating for undesirable job conditions. In this view, productivity differentials as well as differing job conditions lead to wage differentials. The author then introduces an additionnal factor in the explanation of wage differentials: segmentation through unequal access to education, training and jobs with a resulting decrease in labor mobility.
According to the author, this form of analysis is confronted by three major problems: (1) Instead of an initial assumption, the technical classification of jobs and its consequent classification of labour should be considered part of what is explainable as a result of the theory itself. (2) Similarly, the theory's assumption that a causal relationship exists between inter-group/inter-individual inequalities and the presence of long-term economic benefits (rents), neglects consideration of the reciprocal nature of this relationship. (3) Lastly, the theory does not permit the measuring of classification differentials, making empirical verifications impossible.
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