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Competition in Labour Markets

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A recent fall in the labour share of income in some countries has stirred a debate on monopsony and the market power of employers to reduce workers’ wages or working conditions below competitive levels. The debate focused attention on the role that competition agencies may have to help ensure efficient labour input markets. This paper sets out the economic drivers and effects of employer monopsony power in labour markets. It analyses when the exercise of monopsony power by employers may infringe competition law and identifies the cases where competition enforcement can effectively address monopsony power in such markets. The paper also looks at how monopsony power is exercised in digital markets, examining how the intermediation power of some big platforms may negatively affect wages and working conditions of self-employed platform workers. The paper finds that, whilst competition law enforcement has been so far limited, it may have an increased role to play in labour input markets, particularly in addressing anticompetitive agreements that artificially creates monopsony power, abuses of monopsony power and merger transactions leading to increased buyer power on the labour demand side. The paper looks at some practical and analytical challenges to the application of the traditional tools of competition enforcement analysis in these markets. It then discusses ways to overcome such challenges and proposed adjustments to these tools suggested in the recent literature, as well as competition advocacy solutions to address monopsony power in these markets.

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