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Wage-Shifting Effects of Severance Payments Savings Accounts in Colombia

  • Adriana Kugler

In 1990 Colombia replaced its traditional system of severance payments with a new system of severance payments savings accounts (SPSAs). Although severance payments are often justified on the grounds that they provide insurance against earnings loss, they also increase costs for employers and distort employment decisions. The extent of these distortions depends largely on how much of the costs of severance pay can be shifted from employers to workers. One reason why the effects of severance pay may not be completely shifted is that workers may fear the firm will "take the money and run" by declaring bankruptcy. A system of SPSAs eliminates this moral hazard problem, so it should facilitate the shifting of severance payments costs to workers in the form of lower wages. Empirical results using the Colombian National Household Surveys indicate that the introduction of SPSAs lowered wages by between 60% and 80% of total severance payment contributions. These results are consistent with increased shifting after SPSAs were introduced.

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Paper provided by Barcelona Graduate School of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 132.

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Date of creation: Sep 2015
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:bge:wpaper:132
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  1. Matthew Eichner & Mark B. McClellan & David A. Wise, 1998. "Insurance or Self-Insurance? Variation, Persistence, and Individual Health Accounts," NBER Chapters, in: Inquiries in the Economics of Aging, pages 19-49 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Martin Feldstein & Daniel Altman, 2007. "Unemployment Insurance Savings Accounts," NBER Chapters, in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 21, pages 35-64 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Holzmann, Robert & Pouget, Yann & Vodopivec, Milan & Weber, Michael, 2011. "Severance pay programs around the world : history, rationale, status, and reforms," Social Protection Discussion Papers 62726, The World Bank.
  4. Bentolila, Samuel & Bertola, Giuseppe, 1990. "Firing Costs and Labour Demand: How Bad Is Eurosclerosis?," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 57(3), pages 381-402, July.
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