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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.

Suggested Citation

  • Alison L Booth & Pamela Katic, 2009. "Estimating the Wage Elasticity of Labour Supply to a Firm: Is there Monopsony Down-under?," CEPR Discussion Papers 626, Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
  • Handle: RePEc:auu:dpaper:626

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    References listed on IDEAS

    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. Albrecht, James W & Axell, Bo, 1984. "An Equilibrium Model of Search Unemployment," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 92(5), pages 824-840, October.
    3. 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, June.
    4. 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.
    5. 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.
    6. Barth, Erling & Dale-Olsen, Harald, 2009. "Monopsonistic discrimination, worker turnover, and the gender wage gap," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(5), pages 589-597, October.
    7. 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).
    8. 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 257-273, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Manning, Alan, 2011. "Imperfect Competition in the Labor Market," Handbook of Labor Economics, Elsevier.

    More about this item


    monopsony; imperfect competition; separation; labour supply elasticity;

    JEL classification:

    • J42 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Monopsony; Segmented Labor Markets
    • J21 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Force and Employment, Size, and Structure
    • J71 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination - - - Hiring and Firing

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