High Performance Work Practices and Employee Voice: A Comparison of Japanese and Korean Workers







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    •  The authors’ affiliations are, respectively, Korea Labor Institute; Institute of Innovation Research, Hitotsubashi University; Colgate University, IZA Bonn, Center on Japanese Economy and Business (Columbia Business School), Tokyo Center for Economic Research (University of Tokyo), and Center for Corporate Performance (Aarhus School of Business); Management College, University of Incheon; Department of Economics, Hitotsubashi University. E-mail: tkato@colgate.edu. The Japanese Worker Representation and Participation Survey was made possible by generous support from the RIETI (Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry); the Abe Fellowship Program of the Social Sciences Research Council, and the American Council of Learned Societies with funds provided by the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership; the Nihon Keizai Kenkyu Shorei Zaidan; and Denki Rengo (Japanese Electrical, Electronic, Information Union). The Korean Worker Representation and Participation Survey was made possible by generous support from the KLI (Korea Labor Institute) and Metal Union. We are also thankful to Richard Freeman for his continued encouragement and advice. The paper also benefitted from comments and suggestions from Hideo Owan (discussant) and participants at the First Annual SEBA-GATE Workshop, Beijing, May 2010; the ASSA Meetings, San Francisco, January 3, 2009; Jesse Shapiro (discussant) and participants at the NBER Japan Project Meeting, Tokyo, June 25, 2008; participants at the Trans-Pacific Labor Seminar, UC-Santa Barbara, March 10-11, 2007 as well as at the seminar series at the Helsinki School of Economics, March 2006. The views in this paper are solely the responsibility of the authors.


Using a unique new cross-national survey of Japanese and Korean workers, we report the first systematic evidence on the effects on employee voice of High Performance Work Practices (HPWPs) from the two economies that are noted for the wide use of HPWPs. We find for both nations that: (i) workers in firms with HPWPs aimed at creating opportunities for employees to get involved (such as shopfloor committees and small group activities) are indeed more likely to have stronger senses of influence and voice on shopfloor decision making than other workers; (ii) workers whose pay is tied to firm performance are more likely to have a stake in firm performance and hence demand such influence and voice; and (iii) consequently workers in firms with HPWPs are more likely to make frequent suggestions for productivity increase and quality improvement. As such, this paper contributes to a small yet growing new empirical literature that tries to understand the actual process and mechanism through which HPWPs lead to better enterprise performance.