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Contractual Dualism, Market Power and Informality

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  • Arnab K. Basu
  • Nancy H. Chau
  • Ravi Kanbur

Abstract

Two stylized representations are often found in the academic and policy literature on informality and formality in developing countries. The first is that the informal (or unregulated) sector is more competitive than the formal (or regulated) sector. The second is that contract enforcement is easier in the formal sector than in the informal sector, precisely because the formal sector comes under the purview of state regulation. The basic contention of this paper is that these two representations are not compatible with each other. We develop a search-theoretic model of contractual dualism in the labor market where the inability to commit to contracts in the informal sector leads to employer market power in equilibrium, while an enforced minimum wage in the formal sector provides employers with a commitment technology but which reduces their market power in equilibrium. The contributions of this paper are three-fold. It (i) provides the micro-underpinnings for endogenous determination of employer market power in the formal and informal sectors due to contractual dualism in the two sectors, (ii) offers a unified and coherent setup whereby a host of salient features of developing country labor markets can be explained together, and (iii) places the original Stiglerian prescription of the optimal (unemployment minimizing) minimum wage in the broader context of labor markets where formal job creation is costly, and where formal employment, informal employment, and unemployment co-exist.
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Suggested Citation

  • Arnab K. Basu & Nancy H. Chau & Ravi Kanbur, 2015. "Contractual Dualism, Market Power and Informality," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 125(589), pages 1534-1573, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:econjl:v:125:y:2015:i:589:p:1534-1573
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1111/ecoj.2015.125.issue-589
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Basu, Arnab K. & Chau, Nancy H. & Siddique, Zahra, 2011. "Tax Evasion, Minimum Wage Non-Compliance and Informality," IZA Discussion Papers 6228, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    2. Olivier Charlot & Franck Malherbet & Mustafa Ulus, 2016. "Unemployment Compensation and the Allocation of Labor in Developing Countries," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 18(3), pages 385-416, June.
    3. Becker, Dennis, 2014. "Heterogeneous Firms and Informality: The Effects of Trade Liberalization on Labor Markets," Working Papers 180124, Cornell University, Department of Applied Economics and Management.
    4. Kanbur, Ravi, 2014. "Mindsets, Trends, and the Informal Economy," Working Papers 180155, Cornell University, Department of Applied Economics and Management.
    5. Hazans, Mihails, 2011. "Informal Workers across Europe: Evidence from 30 Countries," IZA Discussion Papers 5871, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    6. Charlot, Olivier & Malherbet, Franck & Terra, Cristina, 2015. "Informality in developing economies: Regulation and fiscal policies," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 51(C), pages 1-27.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J3 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs
    • J6 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers
    • O17 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Formal and Informal Sectors; Shadow Economy; Institutional Arrangements

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