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The response of the informal sector to trade liberalization

  • Koujianou Goldberg, Pinelopi
  • Pavcnik, Nina

This Paper studies the relationship between trade liberalization and informality. It is often claimed that increased foreign competition in developing countries leads to an expansion of the informal sector, defined as the sector that does not comply with labour market legislation. Using data from two countries that experienced large trade barrier reductions in the 1980’s and 1990’s - Brazil and Colombia - we examine the response of the informal sector to liberalization. In Brazil, we find no evidence of a relationship between trade policy and informality. In Colombia, we do find evidence of such a relationship, but only for the period preceding a major labour market reform that increased the flexibility of the Colombian labour market. These results point to the significance of labour market institutions in assessing the effects of trade policy on the labour market.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Development Economics.

Volume (Year): 72 (2003)
Issue (Month): 2 (December)
Pages: 463-496

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Handle: RePEc:eee:deveco:v:72:y:2003:i:2:p:463-496
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  1. Orazio Attanasio & Pinelopi Goldberg & Nina Pavcnik, 2003. "Trade Reforms and Wage Inequiality in Colombia," NBER Working Papers 9830, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Jeremy I. Bulow & Lawrence H. Summers, 1985. "A Theory of Dual Labor Markets with Application to Industrial Policy, Discrimination and Keynesian Unemployment," NBER Working Papers 1666, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Arbache, Jorge Saba & Carneiro, Francisco Galrao, 1999. "Unions and Interindustry Wage Differentials," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 27(10), pages 1875-1883, October.
  4. Adriana Kugler, 1999. "The Impact of Firing Costs on Turnover and Unemployment: Evidence from the Colombian Labour Market Reform," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer, vol. 6(3), pages 389-410, August.
  5. Edwards, Sebastian, 1988. "Terms of Trade, Tariffs, and Labor Market Adjustment in Developing Countries," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 2(2), pages 165-85, May.
  6. Shapiro, Carl & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1984. "Equilibrium Unemployment as a Worker Discipline Device," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(3), pages 433-44, June.
  7. John P. Haisken-DeNew & Christoph M. Schmidt, . "Inter-Industry and Inter-Region Differentials: Mechanics and Interpretation," Working Papers 9504, SELAPO Center for Human Resources.
  8. Harrison, Ann & Hanson, Gordon, 1999. "Who gains from trade reform? Some remaining puzzles," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(1), pages 125-154, June.
  9. Goldberg, Pinelopi Koujianou & Pavcnik, Nina, 2003. "Trade, Wages and the Political Economy of Trade Protection: Evidence from the Colombian Trade Reforms," CEPR Discussion Papers 3877, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  10. Harrison, Ann E & Leamer, Edward, 1997. "Labor Markets in Developing Countries: An Agenda for Research," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 15(3), pages S1-19, July.
  11. 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.
  12. Carmen Pagés-Serra & James J. Heckman, 2000. "The Cost of Job Security Regulation: Evidence from Latin American Labor Markets," Research Department Publications 4227, Inter-American Development Bank, Research Department.
  13. Pavcnik, Nina & Blom, Andreas & Goldberg, Pinelopi & Schady, Norbert, 2003. "Trade liberalization and labor market adjustment in Brazil," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2982, The World Bank.
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