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Golden Cages for Showy Birds: Optimal Switching Costs in Labour Markets

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  • Burguet, Roberto
  • Caminal, Ramon
  • Matutes, Carmen

Abstract

Why do some workers sign contracts with high quitting penalties? Are these restrictions on the workers' mobility perverse for efficiency or workers' welfare? We postulate an answer that hinges on the degree of observability of the worker's performance by alternative employers. When performance is privately observed by the employer, then alternative employers face an adverse selection problem when competing for the worker. In equilibrium separations take the form of layoffs with compensation to the worker with no role for quitting fees. However, if performance is quite public this adverse selection problem is absent and buy-out fees serve to appropriate alternative employer's rents from the reallocation of the worker. In this case, efficiency is not affected. Bargaining power (both before and after signing the contract) determines whether buy-out fees are detrimental or not to the worker's welfare.

Suggested Citation

  • Burguet, Roberto & Caminal, Ramon & Matutes, Carmen, 1999. "Golden Cages for Showy Birds: Optimal Switching Costs in Labour Markets," CEPR Discussion Papers 2070, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:2070
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Eberhard Feess & Michael Gerfin & Gerd Muehlheusser, 2015. "Contracts As Rent-Seeking Devices: Evidence From German Soccer," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 53(1), pages 714-730, January.
    2. Heski Bar-Isaac & Ian Jewitt & Clare Leaver, 2007. "Information and Human Capital Managment," Working Papers 07-28, New York University, Leonard N. Stern School of Business, Department of Economics.
    3. Feess, Eberhard & Muehlheusser, Gerd, 2003. "Transfer fee regulations in European football," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 47(4), pages 645-668, August.
    4. Eberhard Feess & Bernd Frick & Gerd Muehlheusser, 2004. "Legal Restrictions on Buyout Fees: Theory and Evidence from German Soccer," Diskussionsschriften dp0411, Universitaet Bern, Departement Volkswirtschaft.
    5. Helmut Dietl & Egon Franck & Markus Lang, 2008. "Why football players may benefit from the ‘shadow of the transfer system’," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 26(3), pages 419-419, December.
    6. Motta, Massimo & Rønde, Thomas, 2002. "Trade Secret Laws, Labour Mobility and Innovations," CEPR Discussion Papers 3615, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Buy-out Fees; Labour Contracts; Severence Payments;

    JEL classification:

    • J41 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Labor Contracts
    • J44 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Professional Labor Markets and Occupations
    • L14 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Transactional Relationships; Contracts and Reputation
    • L42 - Industrial Organization - - Antitrust Issues and Policies - - - Vertical Restraints; Resale Price Maintenance; Quantity Discounts

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