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Why do governments subsidise investment and not employment?

  • Fuest, Clemens
  • Huber, Bernd

The governments of nearly all industrialised countries use subsidies to support the economic development of specific sectors or regions with high rates of unemployment. Conventional economic wisdom would suggest that the most efficient way to support these regions or sectors is to pay employment subsidies. We present evidence showing that capital subsidies are empirically much more important than employment subsidies. We then develop a simple model with unemployment to explain this phenomenon. In our model, unemployment arises due to bargaining between unions and heterogenous firms that differ with respect to their productivity. Union bargaining power raises wage costs and leads to a socially inefficient collapse of low productivity firms and a corresponding job loss. Union-firm bargaining also gives rise to underinvestment. It turns out that an investment subsidy dominates an employment subsidy in terms of welfare if there is bargaining over wages and employment on the firm level. If bargaining is over wages only, results are ambiguous but capital subsidies may still be preferable.

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

Volume (Year): 78 (2000)
Issue (Month): 1-2 (October)
Pages: 171-192

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Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:78:y:2000:i:1-2:p:171-192
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/505578

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  1. Austan Goolsbee, 1998. "Investment Tax Incentives, Prices, And The Supply Of Capital Goods," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 113(1), pages 121-148, February.
  2. SVEJNAR, Jan, . "Bargaining power, fear of disagreement, and wage settlements: theory and evidence from U.S. industry," CORE Discussion Papers RP -720, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  3. Anderson, Simon P & Devereux, Michael, 1988. " Trade Unions and the Choice of Capital Stock," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 90(1), pages 27-44.
  4. Clemens Fuest & Bernd Huber, 1998. "Why Do Countries Subsidize Investment and Not Employment?," NBER Working Papers 6685, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Devereux, Michael B. & Lockwood, Ben, 1991. "Trade unions, non-binding wage agreements, and capital accumulation," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 35(7), pages 1411-1426, October.
  6. Sinn, Hans-Werner, 1995. "Factor Price Distortions and Public Subsidies in East Germany," CEPR Discussion Papers 1155, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  7. George A. Akerlof & Andrew K. Rose & Janet L. Yellen & Helga Hessenius, 1991. "East Germany in from the Cold: The Economic Aftermath of Currency Union," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 22(1), pages 1-106.
  8. Begg, David & Portes, Richard, 1992. "Eastern Germany Since Unification: Wage Subsidies Remain a Better Way," CEPR Discussion Papers 730, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  9. Nash, John, 1950. "The Bargaining Problem," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 18(2), pages 155-162, April.
  10. Oswald, Andrew J., 1993. "Efficient contracts are on the labour demand curve : Theory and facts," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 85-113, June.
  11. Denny, Kevin & Nickell, Stephen J, 1992. "Unions and Investment in British Industry," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 102(413), pages 874-87, July.
  12. Kolm, Ann-Sofie, 1998. "Differentiated payroll taxes, unemployment, and welfare," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(2), pages 255-271, November.
  13. Connolly, Robert A & Hirsch, Barry T & Hirschey, Mark, 1986. "Union Rent Seeking, Intangible Capital, and Market Value of the Firm," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 68(4), pages 567-77, November.
  14. Gaute Torsvik, 1993. "Regional-incentive programs and the problem of time-inconsistent plans," Journal of Economics, Springer, vol. 58(2), pages 187-202, June.
  15. MaCurdy, Thomas E & Pencavel, John H, 1986. "Testing between Competing Models of Wage and Employment Determination in Unionized Markets," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(3), pages S3-S39, June.
  16. Sinn, Gerlinde & Sinn, Hans-Werner, 1992. "Kaltstart. Volkswirtschaftliche Aspekte der Deutschen Vereinigung," Monograph, Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, edition 2, number urn:isbn:9783161459429.
  17. Grout, Paul A, 1984. "Investment and Wages in the Absence of Binding Contracts: A Nash Bargining Approach," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 52(2), pages 449-60, March.
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