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The Joint Design of Unemployment Insurance and Employment Protection: A First Pass

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  • Olivier J. Blanchard
  • Jean Tirole

Abstract

Unemployment insurance and employment protection are typically discussed and studied in isolation. In this paper, we argue that they are tightly linked, and we focus on their joint optimal design in a simple model, with risk-averse workers, risk-neutral firms, and random shocks to productivity. We show that, in the "first best," unemployment insurance comes with employment protection-in the form of layoff taxes; indeed, optimality requires that layoff taxes be equal to unemployment benefits. We then explore the implications of four broad categories of deviations from first best: limits on insurance, limits on layoff taxes, ex post wage bargaining, and ex ante heterogeneity of firms or workers. We show how the design must be modified in each case. Finally, we draw out the implications of our analysis for current policy debates and reform proposals, from the financing of unemployment insurance, to the respective roles of severance payments and unemployment benefits. (c) 2008 by the European Economic Association.

Suggested Citation

  • Olivier J. Blanchard & Jean Tirole, 2008. "The Joint Design of Unemployment Insurance and Employment Protection: A First Pass," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 6(1), pages 45-77, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:tpr:jeurec:v:6:y:2008:i:1:p:45-77
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D60 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - General
    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy
    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation
    • J30 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - General
    • J32 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Nonwage Labor Costs and Benefits; Retirement Plans; Private Pensions
    • J38 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Public Policy
    • J65 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Unemployment Insurance; Severance Pay; Plant Closings

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