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System by which employees are paid a share of the profits of the business enterprise in which they are employed, in keeping with a plan outlined in advance. These payments, which may vary according to salary or wage, are in addition to regular earnings. Profit-sharing plans were probably first developed in France in the early 19th century as worker incentives. Today such plans are used by businesses in Western Europe, the U.S., and parts of Latin America. Profit shares may be distributed on a current or deferred basis or through some combination of the two. Under current distribution, profits are paid out to employees immediately in the form of cash or company stock. In deferred-payment plans, profit shares may be paid into a trust fund from which employees can draw annuities in later years.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on profit sharing, visit Britannica.com.