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Efficiency wage theory, labormarkets, and adjustment

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  • Riveros, Luis A.
  • Bouton, Lawrence

Abstract

Conventional labor theory argues that wages are determined by the interaction of labor supply and demand. Policy analysis on wage rigidity has emphasized distortions arising from exogenous intervention. One emphasis in adjustment lending has been deregulation of labor markets. Efficiency wage models of unemployment try to explain persistent real wage rigidities when unemployment persists. Their central assumption is that higher real wages can improve labor productivity. A major implication of these theories is that wages (and hence labor markets) may be unresponsive to typical macroeconomic policies that seek to lower real wages, change resource allocation, and reduce open unemployment. The three central macroeconomic implications of efficiency wage theory are : 1) there is an equilibrium"natural"level of open unemployment, which differs among groups in the labor force and cannot be affected by demand management policies; 2) when reducing the level of production, the typical firm will resort to laying off labor instead of reducing wages, thereby introducing a significant wage inertia and an overshooting of open unemployment; and 3) wages do not respond to clear the labor market and are not responsive to macroeconomic policies and microeconomic deregulation. The authors conclude that applying the theory in developing countries requires suitably defining labor costs and tackling the problem of segmentation of the labor market.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 731.

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Date of creation: 31 Jul 1991
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Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:731

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References

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  1. Lazear, Edward P, 1981. "Agency, Earnings Profiles, Productivity, and Hours Restrictions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(4), pages 606-20, September.
  2. Calvo, Guillermo, 1979. "Quasi-Walrasian Theories of Unemployment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 69(2), pages 102-07, May.
  3. Raff, Daniel M G & Summers, Lawrence H, 1987. "Did Henry Ford Pay Efficiency Wages?," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 5(4), pages S57-86, October.
  4. Akerlof, George A, 1982. "Labor Contracts as Partial Gift Exchange," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 97(4), pages 543-69, November.
  5. Kahn, Charles & Mookherjee, Dilip, 1988. "A Competitive Efficiency Wage Model with Keynesian Features," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 103(4), pages 609-45, November.
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  8. Bruce C. Greenwald & Joseph E. Stiglitz, 1990. "Toward a Theory of Rigidities," NBER Working Papers 2938, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  14. Lawrence H. Summers, 1989. "Relative Wages, Efficiency Wages, and Keynesian Unemployment," NBER Working Papers 2590, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  16. Waller, Christopher J., 1989. "Efficiency wages, wage indexation and macroeconomic stabilization," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 30(2), pages 125-128, August.
  17. Lawrence F. Katz, 1986. "Efficiency Wage Theories: A Partial Evaluation," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1986, Volume 1, pages 235-290 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Robert E. Hall, 1975. "The Rigidity of Wages and the Persistence of Unemployment," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 6(2), pages 301-350.
  19. Lang, Kevin & Kahn, Shulamit, 1990. "Efficiency Wage Models of Unemployment: A Second View," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 28(2), pages 296-306, April.
  20. Krueger, Alan B & Summers, Lawrence H, 1988. "Efficiency Wages and the Inter-industry Wage Structure," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 56(2), pages 259-93, March.
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  22. William T. Dickens & Lawrence F. Katz, 1987. "Interindustry Wage Differences and Industry Characteristics," NBER Working Papers 2014, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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