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Escaping the unemployment trap: The case of East Germany

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  • Merkl, Christian
  • Snower, Dennis J.

Abstract

This paper addresses the question of why high unemployment rates tend to persist even after their proximate causes have been reversed (e.g., after wages relative to productivity have fallen). We suggest that the longer people are unemployed, the greater is their cumulative likelihood of falling into a low-productivity "trap," through the attrition of skills and work habits. We develop a model along these lines, which allows us to bridge the gap between high macroeconomic employment persistence versus relatively high microeconomic labor market flow numbers. We calibrate the model for East Germany and examine the effectiveness of three employment policies in this context: (i) a weakening of workers' position in wage negotiations due to a drop in the replacement rate or firing costs, leading to a fall in wages, (ii) hiring subsidies, and (iii) training subsidies. We show that the employment effects of these policies depend crucially on whether low-productivity traps are present. Journal of Comparative Economics 36 (4) (2008) 542-556.

Suggested Citation

  • Merkl, Christian & Snower, Dennis J., 2008. "Escaping the unemployment trap: The case of East Germany," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 36(4), pages 542-556, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jcecon:v:36:y:2008:i:4:p:542-556
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    2. Yvonne Schindele, 2010. "How Long Does it Take to Become an Entrepreneurial Society - The Case of German Convergence in Self-Employment," Jena Economics Research Papers 2010-015, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena.
    3. Christian Merkl & Dennis Snower, 2008. "East German unemployment: the myth of the irrelevant labor market," Journal of Post Keynesian Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 31(1), pages 151-165, September.
    4. Dennis J. Snower & Alessio J. G. Brown & Christian Merkl, 2009. "Globalization and the Welfare State: A Review of Hans-Werner Sinn's Can Germany Be Saved?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 47(1), pages 136-158, March.
    5. Gartner, Hermann & Merkl, Christian & Rothe, Thomas, 2012. "Sclerosis and large volatilities: Two sides of the same coin," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 117(1), pages 106-109.
    6. Christiane Hinerasky & Rene Fahr, 2014. "Learning Outcomes, Feedback, and the Performance Effects of a Training Program," Working Papers Dissertations 16, Paderborn University, Faculty of Business Administration and Economics.
    7. Juan Carlos Martinez Oliva, 2009. "Riunificazione intertedesca e politiche per la convergenza," Mo.Fi.R. Working Papers 14, Money and Finance Research group (Mo.Fi.R.) - Univ. Politecnica Marche - Dept. Economic and Social Sciences.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Labor market Labor market trap East Germany Unemployment;

    JEL classification:

    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity
    • J30 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - General
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • J64 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Unemployment: Models, Duration, Incidence, and Job Search

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