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Absenteeism, Unemployment and Employment Protection Legislation: Evidence from Italy

  • Vincenzo Scoppa
  • Daniela Vuri

Efficiency wages theories argue that the threat of firing, coupled with a high unemployment rate, is a mechanism that discourages employee shirking in asymmetric information contexts. Our empirical analysis aims to verify the role of unemployment as a worker discipline device, considering the different degree of job security offered by the Italian Employment Protection Legislation to workers employed in small and large firms. We use a panel of administrative data (WHIP) and consider sickness absences as an empirical proxy for employee shirking. Controlling for a number of individual and firm characteristics, we investigate the relationship between worker’s absences and local unemployment rate (at the provincial level). We find a strong negative impact of unemployment on absenteeism rate, which is considerable larger in small firms due to a significantly lower protection from dismissals in these firms. We also find that workers who are absent more frequently face higher risks of dismissal. As an indirect test of the role of unemployment as worker’s discipline device we show that public sector employees, almost impossible to fire, do not react to the local unemployment.

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Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 4064.

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Date of creation: 2013
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_4064
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  1. Fahr, René & Frick, Bernd, 2007. "On the Inverse Relationship between Unemployment and Absenteeism: Evidence from Natural Experiments and Worker Heterogeneity," IZA Discussion Papers 3171, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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  12. Faini, Riccardo & Galli, Giampaolo & Gennari, Pietro & Rossi, Fulvio, 1997. "An empirical puzzle: Falling migration and growing unemployment differentials among Italian regions," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 41(3-5), pages 571-579, April.
  13. Vincenzo Scoppa, 2010. "Worker absenteeism and incentives: evidence from Italy," Managerial and Decision Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 31(8), pages 503-515, December.
  14. Barmby, Tim & Stephan, Gesine, 2000. "Worker Absenteeism: Why Firm Size May Matter," Manchester School, University of Manchester, vol. 68(5), pages 568-77, September.
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  16. Campbell, Carl III, 1994. "The determinants of dismissals tests of the shirking model with individual data," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 46(1), pages 89-95, September.
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  19. Simen Markussen, 2012. "The individual cost of sick leave," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 25(4), pages 1287-1306, October.
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  24. Hesselius, Patrik, 2007. "Does sickness absence increase the risk of unemployment?," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 36(2), pages 288-310, April.
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  26. Andrea Ichino & Giovanni Maggi, 1999. "Work Environment and Individual Background: Explaining Regional Shirking Differentials in a Large Italian Firm," NBER Working Papers 7415, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  27. Nazmul Chaudhury & Jeffrey Hammer & Michael Kremer & Karthik Muralidharan & F. Halsey Rogers, 2006. "Missing in Action: Teacher and Health Worker Absence in Developing Countries," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(1), pages 91-116, Winter.
  28. Shapiro, Carl & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1984. "Equilibrium Unemployment as a Worker Discipline Device," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(3), pages 433-44, June.
  29. Riphahn, Regina T., 2004. "Employment protection and effort among German employees," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 85(3), pages 353-357, December.
  30. Johansson, Per & Palme, Marten, 1996. "Do economic incentives affect work absence? Empirical evidence using Swedish micro data," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(2), pages 195-218, February.
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