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POID Working Paper

Labour market power: New evidence on non-compete agreements and the effects of M&A in the UK


Monopsony power is an important feature of modern labour markets. We examine its impact on workers. We report the first representative survey of Non-Compete-Agreements (NCA) in the UK and find that about 26% of workers appear to be covered, a higher fraction than in comparable surveys in the US (18%) and Italy (16%). Although NCAs are more prevalent for skilled workers, a large number of low skilled workers are also subject to NCAs (e.g. over a fifth of plant operators). Moreover, although NCAs are associated with higher training (conditional on other measures of skills), we argue that such benefits are unlikely to justify their high prevalence. Finally, we examine the impact of over 2,000 M&A events on jobs and wages using firm-level UK panel data between 1997 and 2022 (over 900,000 observations). The data suggests that M&A tends to reduce employment growth in the merged entity (from 3% a year prior to the merger to about zero in the subsequent five years), particularly in target firms. However, there is no evidence of any falls in average wage growth (in acquirer or target) as monopsony would predict - if anything, average wages are higher. Nor does profitability or productivity change post-merger.

JEL no.: L2, M2, O32, O33


Julian Alves, Jason Greenberg, Yaxin Guo, Ravija Harjai, Bruno Serra and John Van Reenen

29 January 2024     Paper Number POIDWP090

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