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Temporary Contracts, Incentives and Unemployment

Listed author(s):
  • Güell, Maia
  • Rodríguez Mora, José Vicente

Firing-cost-free temporary contracts were introduced in many European countries during the eigthies in order to fight high unemployment rates. Their rationale was to increase job creation in a context of high firing costs that were politically hard to decrease. Temporary contracts have become a prevalent labor market institution in many countries, and with hindsight it seems uncontroversial that they have failed at decreasing unemployment. Evidence indicates that temporary contracts not only increases unemployment fluctuations, but also unemployment levels. In this paper we argue that the rationale for the introduction of temporary contracts is flawed at its root. We provide a novel explanation of why temporary contracts can increase unemployment even in a context where a reduction of firing costs would actually reduce unemployment. We argue that, if minimum wages are kept at high levels, temporary contracts have an effect not unlike the increase of unemployment benefits. By increasing the flows in and out of unemployment into relatively highly paid temporary jobs (minimum wage), they increase the value of being unemployed. This has a negative effect on incentives, increases wages and reduces the willingness of firms to create employment. We present empirical evidence supportive of some of the implications of the model.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 8116.

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Date of creation: Nov 2010
Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:8116
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  1. Alonso-Borrego, César & Galdón Sánchez, José E. & Fernández Villaverde, Jesús, 2004. "Evaluating labor market reforms : a general equilibrium approach," UC3M Working papers. Economics we042307, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. Departamento de Economía.
  2. Bentolila, Samuel & Cahuc, Pierre & Dolado, Juan J. & Le Barbanchon, Thomas, 2010. "Two-Tier Labor Markets in the Great Recession: France vs. Spain," CEPR Discussion Papers 8152, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. Etienne Wasmer, 1997. "Competition for Jobs in a Growing Economy and the Emergence of Dualism," Working Papers 97-15, Centre de Recherche en Economie et Statistique.
  4. Güell, Maia & Petrongolo, Barbara, 2003. "How Binding are Legal Limits? Transitions from Temporary to Permanent Work in Spain," CEPR Discussion Papers 3931, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  5. James Costain & Juan F. Jimeno & Carlos Thomas, 2010. "Employment fluctuations in a dual labour market," Economic Bulletin, Banco de España;Economic Bulletin Homepage, issue APR, April.
  6. Juan J Dolado & Carlos Garcia--Serrano & Juan F. Jimeno, 2002. "Drawing Lessons From The Boom Of Temporary Jobs In Spain," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(721), pages 270-295, June.
  7. David Card & Thomas Lemieux, 2000. "Can Falling Supply Explain the Rising Return to College for Younger Men? A Cohort-Based Analysis," NBER Working Papers 7655, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Goux, Dominique & Maurin, Eric & Pauchet, Marianne, 2001. "Fixed-term contracts and the dynamics of labour demand," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 45(3), pages 533-552, March.
  9. Victor Aguirregabiria & Cesar Alonso-Borrego, 2009. "Labor Contracts and Flexibility: Evidence from a Labor Market Reform in Spain," Working Papers tecipa-346, University of Toronto, Department of Economics.
  10. Cahuc, Pierre & Postel-Vinay, Fabien, 2002. "Temporary jobs, employment protection and labor market performance," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 9(1), pages 63-91, February.
  11. Booth, Alison L. & Francesconi, Marco & Frank, Jeff, 2000. "Temporary Jobs: Stepping Stones or Dead Ends?," IZA Discussion Papers 205, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  12. Cabrales, Antonio & Hopenhayn, Hugo A., 1997. "Labor-market flexibility and aggregate employment volatility," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 46(1), pages 189-228, June.
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  15. repec:pri:indrel:dsp011j92g746j is not listed on IDEAS
  16. Samuel Bentolila & Giuseppe Bertola, 1990. "Firing Costs and Labour Demand: How Bad is Eurosclerosis?," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 57(3), pages 381-402.
  17. Bentolila, Samuel & Saint-Paul, Gilles, 1992. "The macroeconomic impact of flexible labor contracts, with an application to Spain," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 36(5), pages 1013-1047, June.
  18. Shapiro, Carl & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1984. "Equilibrium Unemployment as a Worker Discipline Device," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(3), pages 433-444, June.
  19. George A. Akerlof & Lawrence F. Katz, 1988. "Workers' Trust Funds and the Logic of Wage Profiles," NBER Working Papers 2548, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  20. Kahn, Lawrence M., 2007. "Employment Protection Reforms, Employment and the Incidence of Temporary Jobs in Europe: 1995–2001," IZA Discussion Papers 3241, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  21. Olivier Blanchard & Augustin Landier, 2001. "The Perverse Effects of Partial Labor Market Reform: Fixed Duration Contracts in France," NBER Working Papers 8219, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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