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Job Search, Unemployment Protection and Informal Work in Advanced Economies


  • Iain W. Long
  • Vito Polito


This paper investigates the incentives that may induce workers to supplement income from unemployment benefits by engaging in temporary informal work. Using a dynamic model of job-search with moral hazard that incorporates a stylised schedule of benefit payments, we describe how informal sector participation changes over the duration of unemployment, in turn affecting the incentive to search for formal employment. We find that increasing benefit generosity makes job seekers less reliant on informal work, enabling them to search more intensively. At the same time, when detection rates are low, informal work participation may decline as benefit exhaustion approaches, reinforcing this effect. From a policy perspective, the analysis identifies scope for reallocation of resources towards less generous programmes within unemployment protection, which would reduce the size of the informal sector and unemployment in the economy.

Suggested Citation

  • Iain W. Long & Vito Polito, 2017. "Job Search, Unemployment Protection and Informal Work in Advanced Economies," CESifo Working Paper Series 6763, CESifo.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_6763

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Bosch, Mariano & Esteban-Pretel, Julen, 2012. "Job creation and job destruction in the presence of informal markets," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 98(2), pages 270-286.
    2. Clement Joubert, 2015. "Pension Design With A Large Informal Labor Market: Evidence From Chile," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 56, pages 673-694, May.
    3. Costas Meghir & Renata Narita & Jean-Marc Robin, 2015. "Wages and Informality in Developing Countries," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(4), pages 1509-1546, April.
    4. Cuff, Katherine & Marceau, Nicolas & Mongrain, Steeve & Roberts, Joanne, 2011. "Optimal Policies with an Informal Sector," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(11), pages 1280-1291.
    5. Demont, Timothée, 2016. "Microfinance spillovers: A model of competition in informal credit markets with an application to Indian villages," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 89(C), pages 21-41.
    6. Emilio Espino & Juan M. Sanchez, 2015. "How Does Informal Employment Affect the Design of Unemployment Insurance and Employment Protection?," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, vol. 97(2).
    7. John Bennett & Matthew D. Rablen, 2015. "Self-employment, wage employment, and informality in a developing economy," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 67(2), pages 227-244.
    8. David Bardey & Fernando Jaramillo & Ximena Peña, 2015. "Unemployment Insurance in the Presence of an Informal Sector," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 29(suppl_1), pages 126-134.
    9. Anat Bracha & Mary A. Burke, 2014. "Informal work in the United States: evidence from survey responses," Current Policy Perspectives 14-13, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
    10. Anat Bracha & Mary A. Burke & Arman Khachiyan, 2015. "Changing patterns in informal work participation in the United States 2013–2015," Current Policy Perspectives 15-10, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
    11. David Bardey & Fermando Jaramillo & Ximena Pena, 2013. "Unemployment insurance in the presence of an informal," Documentos de Trabajo 011014, Universidad del Rosario.
    12. Fugazza, Marco & Jacques, Jean-Francois, 2004. "Labor market institutions, taxation and the underground economy," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(1-2), pages 395-418, January.
    13. Edoardo Di Porto & Leandro Elia & Cristina Tealdi, 2017. "Informal work in a flexible labour market," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 69(1), pages 143-164.
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    Cited by:

    1. Francois Gerard & Joana Naritomi, 2019. "Job displacement insurance and (the lack of) consumption-smoothing," CESifo Working Paper Series 7625, CESifo.
    2. Juliana Mesén Vargas & Bruno Van der Linden, 2018. "Is there always a Trade-off between Insurance and Incentives? The Case of Unemployment with Subsistence Constraints," CESifo Working Paper Series 7044, CESifo.
    3. Mesén Vargas, Juliana & Van der Linden, Bruno, 2017. "Is There Always a Trade-off between Insurance and Incentives? The Case of Unemployment with Subsistence Constraints," IZA Discussion Papers 11034, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).

    More about this item


    job-search; informal sector; unemployment insurance; moral hazard;

    JEL classification:

    • J46 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Informal Labor Market
    • J64 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Unemployment: Models, Duration, Incidence, and Job Search
    • J65 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Unemployment Insurance; Severance Pay; Plant Closings
    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law

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