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Can Public Sector Wage Bills Be Reduced?

In: Fiscal Policy after the Financial Crisis

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  • Pierre Cahuc
  • Stéphane Carcillo

Abstract

This paper analyzes the relation between public wage bills and public deficits in the OECD countries from 1995 to 2009. The paper shows that fiscal drift episodes, characterized by simultaneous increases in the GDP shares of public wage bills and budget deficits, are more frequent during booms and election years, but not during recessions, except for the 2009 exceptionally strong recession. The emergence of fiscal drift episodes during booms and election years is less frequent in countries with more transparent government, more freedom of the press, as well as in countries with presidential regimes and less union coverage. Inversely, fiscal tightening episodes, characterized by simultaneous decreases in the GDP shares of public wage bills and budget deficits, occur less often during booms than during recessions. The emergence of fiscal tightening episodes during recessions and election years is less frequent in countries with more union coverage.

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This chapter was published in:

  • Alberto Alesina & Francesco Giavazzi, 2013. "Fiscal Policy after the Financial Crisis," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number ales11-1, May.
    This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 12648.

    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:12648

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    1. Lane, Philip R., 2003. "The cyclical behaviour of fiscal policy: evidence from the OECD," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(12), pages 2661-2675, December.
    2. Marco Battaglini & Stephen Coate, 2006. "A Dynamic Theory of Public Spending, Taxation and Debt," NajEcon Working Paper Reviews 321307000000000026, www.najecon.org.
    3. Alessandro Gavazza & Alessandro Lizzeri, 2009. "Transparency and Economic Policy," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 76(3), pages 1023-1048.
    4. Adi Brender & Allan Drazen, 2008. "How Do Budget Deficits and Economic Growth Affect Reelection Prospects? Evidence from a Large Panel of Countries," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(5), pages 2203-20, December.
    5. Robert Barro, 1973. "The control of politicians: An economic model," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 14(1), pages 19-42, March.
    6. Shi, Min & Svensson, Jakob, 2006. "Political budget cycles: Do they differ across countries and why?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(8-9), pages 1367-1389, September.
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