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Wage and Productivity Differentials in Japan: The Role of Labor Market Mechanisms

  • Yannick Kalantzis
  • Ryo Kambayashi
  • Sébastien Lechevalier

Two stylized facts characterized Japan during the so-called Lost Decade (1992-2005): rising wage inequalities and increasing productivity differentials at the firm level. Surprisingly, these features have never been connected in the literature. This paper attempts to fill this gap by proposing an explanation focusing on labor market mechanisms. We first construct an efficiency wage model with two types of firms distinguished by their job security schemes and associated incentive mechanisms. We show that a comparable negative productivity shock at the aggregate level leads to different firm reactions; namely, the model predicts increasing effort from workers in firms employing an efficiency wage mechanism. This leads to increasing productivity and wage differentials and a rise of the share of these firms in the total population of firms. We test this model using Japanese micro data. For the first time, we match the Basic Survey on Wage Structure and the Employment Trend Survey for 2005. The matched worker-firm dataset we obtain allows us to confirm the existence of an efficiency wage mechanism on average. We also divide our sample of firms into two groups using the unknown regime switching regression a la Dickens and Lang (1985), and find that the primary sector, unlike the secondary, is characterized by efficiency wages. We confirm this result with various robustness checks. Finally, we simulate the evolution of the share of the primary sector in the economy and find that it substantially increased between 1981 and 2005 in line with the predictions of our model.

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File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1111/10.1111/labr.2012.26.issue-4
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Article provided by CEIS in its journal LABOUR.

Volume (Year): 26 (2012)
Issue (Month): 4 (December)
Pages: 514-541

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Handle: RePEc:bla:labour:v:26:y:2012:i:4:p:514-541
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  1. Dickens, William T & Lang, Kevin, 1985. "A Test of Dual Labor Market Theory," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(4), pages 792-805, September.
  2. Giulia Faggio & Kjell G. Salvanes & John Van Reenen, 2007. "The evolution of inequality in productivity and wages: panel data evidence," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 4558, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  3. Timothy Dunne & John Haltiwanger & Lucia Foster, 2000. "Wage and Productivity Dispersion in U.S. Manufacturing: The Role of Computer Investment," NBER Working Papers 7465, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Leonardi, Marco, 2005. "Firm Heterogeneity in Capital labor Ratios and Wage Inequality," Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, Working Paper Series qt1g9514wh, Institute of Industrial Relations, UC Berkeley.
  5. ITO Keiko & Sebastien LECHEVALIER, 2008. "The evolution of the productivity dispersion of firms - A reevaluation of its determinants in the case of Japan," Discussion papers 08014, Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (RIETI).
  6. Kato, Takao, 2001. "The End of Lifetime Employment in Japan?: Evidence from National Surveys and Field Research," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 15(4), pages 489-514, December.
  7. Nidardo, J. & Fortin, N. & Lemieux, T., 1994. "Labor Market Institutions and the Distribution of Wages, 1973-1992: A Semiparametric Approach," Papers 93-94-15, California Irvine - School of Social Sciences.
  8. Fumio OHTAKE, 2008. "Inequality in Japan," Asian Economic Policy Review, Japan Center for Economic Research, vol. 3(1), pages 87-109.
  9. Kyoji Fukao & Hyeog Ug Kwon, 2005. "Why Did Japan's TFP Growth Slow Down in the Lost Decade? An Empirical Analysis Based on Firm-Level Data of Manufacturing Firms," Discussion papers 05004, Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (RIETI).
  10. Bruno Amable & Donatella Gatti, 2004. "Product market competition, job security, and aggregate employment," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 56(4), pages 667-686, October.
  11. Julia I. Lane & John C. Haltiwanger & James Spletzer, 1999. "Productivity Differences across Employers: The Roles of Employer Size, Age, and Human Capital," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(2), pages 94-98, May.
  12. Alfonso Sousa-Poza, 2004. "Is the Swiss Labor Market Segmented? An Analysis Using Alternative Approaches," LABOUR, CEIS, vol. 18(1), pages 131-161, 03.
  13. Ryo Kambayashi & Daiji Kawaguchi & Izumi Yokoyama, 2008. "Wage distribution in Japan, 1989-2003," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 41(4), pages 1329-1350, November.
  14. Masahiro Abe & Isao Ohashi, 2004. "Inter-Industry and Firm Size Effects on Wage Differentials and Efficiency Wages in Japan," Hi-Stat Discussion Paper Series d04-25, Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University.
  15. Richard B. Freeman & James L. Medoff, 1983. "Trade Unions and Productivity: Some New Evidence on an Old Issue," NBER Working Papers 1249, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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