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How do European firms adjust their labour costs when nominal wages are rigid?


  • Babecký, Jan
  • Du Caju, Philip
  • Kosma, Theodora
  • Lawless, Martina
  • Messina, Julián
  • Rõõm, Tairi


Although workers' nominal wages are seldom cut, firms have multiple options available if they require adjustments in their wage bills. We broaden the analysis of relative (in)flexibility in labour costs by investigating the use of other margins of labour cost adjustment at the firm level beyond base wages. Using data from a unique survey, we find that European firms make extensive use of other components of compensation to adjust the cost of labour. Interestingly, firms facing base wage rigidity are more likely to use alternative margins of labour cost adjustment; therefore there appears to be some degree of substitutability between wage flexibility and the flexibility of other cost components. Changes in bonuses and non-pay benefits are some of the potential margins firms use to reduce costs. We also show how the margins of adjustment chosen are affected by unionisation and firm and worker characteristics.

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  • Babecký, Jan & Du Caju, Philip & Kosma, Theodora & Lawless, Martina & Messina, Julián & Rõõm, Tairi, 2012. "How do European firms adjust their labour costs when nominal wages are rigid?," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(5), pages 792-801.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:labeco:v:19:y:2012:i:5:p:792-801
    DOI: 10.1016/j.labeco.2012.03.010

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item


    Labour costs; Wage rigidity; Firm survey; European Union;

    JEL classification:

    • J30 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - General
    • C81 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Data Collection and Data Estimation Methodology; Computer Programs - - - Methodology for Collecting, Estimating, and Organizing Microeconomic Data; Data Access
    • P5 - Economic Systems - - Comparative Economic Systems


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