Bargaining power is the relative ability of parties in a situation to exert influence over each other. If both parties are on an equal footing in a debate, then they will have equal bargaining power, such as in a perfectly competitive market, or between an evenly matched monopoly and monopsony.
There are a number of fields where the concept of bargaining power has proven crucial to coherent analysis: game theory, labour economics, collective bargaining arrangements, diplomatic negotiations, settlement of litigation, the price of insurance, and any negotiation in general.
- We may define bargaining power (of A, let us say) as being the cost to B of disagreeing on A's terms relative to the costs of agreeing on A's terms ... Stated in another way, a (relatively) high cost to B of disagreement with A means that A's bargaining power is strong. A (relatively) high cost of agreement means that A's bargaining power is weak. Such statements in themselves, however, reveal nothing of the strength or weakness of A relative to B, since B might similarly possess a strong or weak bargaining power. But if the cost to B of disagreeing on A's terms is greater than the cost of agreeing on A's terms, while the cost to A of disagreeing on B's terms is less than the cost of agreeing on B's terms, then A's bargaining power is greater than that of B. More generally, only if the difference to B between the costs of disagreement and agreement on A's terms is proportionately greater than the difference to A between the costs of disagreement and agreement on B's terms can it be said that A's bargaining power is greater than that of B.
In another formulation, bargaining power is expressed as a ratio of a party's ability to influence the other participant, to the costs of not reaching an agreement to that party:
- BPA(Bargaining Power of A) = (Benefits and Costs that can be inflicted upon B)/(A's cost of not agreeing)
- BPB(Bargaining Power of B) = (Benefits and Costs that can be inflicted upon A)/(B's cost of not agreeing)
- If BPA is greater than BPB, then A has greater Bargaining Power than B, and the resulting agreement will tend to favor A. The reverse is expected if B has greater bargaining power instead.
These formulations and more complex versions with more precisely defined variables have been utilized to describe the behavior of parties to a negotiation and determine where their behavior will fall within the possible options they might agree to. Even in a situation of seeming equality there may be underlying factors that more complex models of bargaining power attempt to include.
Here is a layman's terms example of one party displaying large amounts of bargaining power over the other:
- Stephanie is applying for a job at Company, Inc. Only one position is available, and there are 100 different people applying for that same position. Stephanie will not have choice between employers since Company, Inc is the only company hiring in her area. On the other hand, Company, Inc. will have a lot of choice, and will be in a position to offer Stephanie a standard form contract for employment, complete with minimum wage pay, nothing but workers compensation and unemployment as benefits, and the possibility for termination at any time, per the doctrine of at-will employment.
Buying power is a specific type of bargaining power relating to a purchaser and a supplier. For example a retailer may be able to dictate price to a small supplier if it has a large market share and or can bulk buy.
- Collective buying power
- Inequality of bargaining power
- Intra-household bargaining
- Porter five forces analysis
- Purchasing power
- Kuhn, James W.; Lewin, David; McNulty, Paul J. (July 1983). "Neil W. Chamberlain: A Retrospective Analysis of His Scholarly Work and Influence". British Journal of Industrial Relations 21 (2): 143–160.
- John Allen (2009). "Chapter 2 One-stop shopping". Making Social Lifes. Milton Keynes: The Open University. p. 66.
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