Abstract

The concept of asset specificity has become very prominent in the literature on skill formation, welfare states and labour markets. Building on the varieties of capitalism (VoC) school, this paper points out three distinct shortcomings of this literature: first, the VoC approach does not fully account for the variation of skill regimes in coordinated market economies (CMEs); second, the VoC approach underestimates the importance of authoritative certification in determining the real portability of vocational skills; and third, the complementarities between skill formation and social policies are different from what is expected in the VoC contributions. I argue that the variation of skill regimes in CMEs covers not one, but two separate dimensions: firms' involvement in skill formation and the vocational specificity of the education system. On the basis of three case studies, I demonstrate the existence of three distinct skill regimes in CMEs: the segmentalist (firm-based) skill regime of Japan, the integrationist (school-based occupational) skill regime of Sweden and the differentiated (workplace-based occupational) skill regime of Germany.

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