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Thesis defence

Antitrust policy and EU labour markets

Lessons from the US and comparative prospects

Add to calendar 2024-04-05 16:30 2024-04-05 18:30 Europe/Rome Antitrust policy and EU labour markets Sala del Consiglio Villa Salviati - Castle YYYY-MM-DD


05 April 2024

16:30 - 18:30 CEST


Sala del Consiglio

Villa Salviati - Castle

Organised by

PhD thesis defence by Isaure D'Estaintot

Recent empirical evidence suggests that labour markets are not as competitive as previously thought. In that context, mobilizing antitrust policy has been discussed as a possible solution. The proposition sounds counterintuitive, however. If workers are paid below the competitive level, doesn’t this promote consumers’ outcomes by reducing downstream prices? Given that antitrust policy promotes consumer welfare, why would antitrust authorities intervene against such a state of affairs? Besides, why would stepping up on antitrust enforcement improve workers’ outcomes? Their interests have traditionally been protected through their exclusion from the scope of antitrust enforcement, not by the enforcement of antitrust rules to their benefit.

This thesis demonstrates that those spontaneous assumptions do not hold. Consumer welfare does not speak against the defence of workers’ interests. First, the focus on consumers is a by-product of methods: it does not prevent consideration of other types of market participants. Moreover, consumers benefit from competitive labour markets. The welfare effects of monopsony power simultaneously worsen workers and consumers’ outcomes. As for the promotion of workers’ interests, it can be achieved through both positive and negative enforcement of antitrust.

So far, the EU Commission has been less proactive than the American DOJ and FTC on the issue of antitrust enforcement in labour markets (although the state of affairs is evolving). While this difference may stem from EU workers benefitting from higher levels of social protection than US workers, those higher levels of protection may not negate the usefulness of antitrust's intervention. The low levels of antitrust enforcement in EU labour markets may result from legal uncertainty and case law inconsistency more than an absence of harm. Just like the merger control apparatus, Article 101 and 102 TFEU can be used to scrutinize labour markets. While doing so involves some practical complexities, they can be overcome.


Isaure D'Estaintot (EUI)


Giorgio Monti (European Univeristy Institute / Tilburg University)

Mariateresa Maggiolino (Università Bocconi)


Thomas Perroud (Université Panthéon-Assas)

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