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Estimating the Wage Elasticity of Labour Supply to a Firm: Is there Monopsony Down-under?

  • Alison L Booth
  • Pamela Katic

In this paper we estimate the elasticity of the labour supply to a firm, using data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey. Estimation of this elasticity is of particular interest because of its relevance to the debate about the competitiveness of labour markets. The essence of monopsonistically competitive labour markets is that labour supply to a firm is imperfectly elastic with respect to the wage rate. The intuition is that, where workers have heterogeneous preferences or face mobility costs, firms can offer lower wages without immediately losing their workforce. This is in contrast to the perfectly competitive extreme, in which the elasticity is infinite. Therefore a simple test of whether labour markets are perfectly or imperfectly competitive involves estimating the elasticity of the labour supply to a firm. We do this, following the modelling strategy of Manning (2003), and find that the Australian wage elasticity of labour supply to a firm is around 0.71, only slightly smaller than the figure of 0.75 reported for the UK. These estimates are so far from the perfectly competitive assumption of an infinite elasticity that it would be difficult to make a case that labour markets are perfectly competitive.

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Paper provided by Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 626.

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Date of creation: Dec 2009
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Handle: RePEc:auu:dpaper:626
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  1. Bhaskar, V & To, Ted, 1999. "Minimum Wages for Ronald McDonald Monopsonies: A Theory of Monopsonistic Competition," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 109(455), pages 190-203, April.
  2. Burdett, Kenneth & Mortensen, Dale T, 1998. "Wage Differentials, Employer Size, and Unemployment," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 39(2), pages 257-73, May.
  3. Alison L. Booth & Pamela Katic, 2011. "Men at Work in a Land Down‐Under: Testing Some Predictions of Human Capital Theory," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 49(1), pages 1-24, March.
  4. Albrecht, James W & Axell, Bo, 1983. "An Equilibrium Model of Search Unemployment," Working Paper Series 99, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
  5. Alan Manning & Ted To, 2002. "Oligopsony and Monopsonistic Competition in Labor Markets," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 16(2), pages 155-174, Spring.
  6. Alison L. Booth & Marco Francesconi & Carlos Garcia-Serrano, 1999. "Job tenure and job mobility in Britain," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 53(1), pages 43-70, October.
  7. Boris Hirsch & Thorsten Schank & Claus Schnabel, 2008. "Differences in Labor Supply to Monopsonistic Firms and the Gender Pay Gap: An Empirical Analysis Using Linked Employer-Employee Data from Germany," Working Papers 1111, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  8. Mark Wooden & Nicole Watson, 2007. "The HILDA Survey and its Contribution to Economic and Social Research (So Far)," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 83(261), pages 208-231, 06.
  9. Barth, Erling & Dale-Olsen, Harald, 2009. "Monopsonistic Discrimination, Worker Turnover, and the Gender Wage Gap," IZA Discussion Papers 3930, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  10. Ransom, Michael R. & Oaxaca, Ronald L., 2005. "Sex Differences in Pay in a "New Monopsony" Model of the Labor Market," IZA Discussion Papers 1870, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  11. Alison L. Booth & Mark L. Bryan, 2005. "Testing Some Predictions of Human Capital Theory: New Training Evidence from Britain," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 87(2), pages 391-394, May.
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