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Contractual Dualism, Market Power and Informality

  • Basu, Arnab K
  • Chau, Nancy H
  • Kanbur, Ravi

Two stylized representations are often found in the academic and policy literature on informality and formality in developing countries. The first is that the informal (or unregulated) sector is more competitive than the formal (or regulated) sector. The second is that contract enforcement is easier in the formal sector than in the informal sector, precisely because the formal sector comes under the purview of state regulation. The basic contention of this paper is that these two representations are not compatible with each other. We develop a search-theoretic model of contractual dualism in the labor market where the inability to commit to contracts in the informal sector leads to employer market power in equilibrium, while an enforced minimum wage in the formal sector provides employers with a commitment technology but which reduces their market power in equilibrium. The contributions of this paper are three-fold. It (i) provides the micro-underpinnings for endogenous determination of employer market power in the formal and informal sectors due to contractual dualism in the two sectors, (ii) offers a unified and coherent setup whereby a host of salient features of developing country labor markets can be explained together, and (iii) places the original Stiglerian prescription of the optimal (unemployment minimizing) minimum wage in the broader context of labor markets where formal job creation is costly, and where formal employment, informal employment, and unemployment co-exist.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 8485.

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Date of creation: Jul 2011
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:8485
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  1. Rauch, James E., 1991. "Modelling the informal sector formally," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 35(1), pages 33-47, January.
  2. Albrecht, James & Navarro, Lucas & Vroman, Susan, 2006. "The Effects of Labor Market Policies in an Economy with an Informal Sector," IZA Discussion Papers 2141, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. Gindling, T.H. & Terrell, Katherine, 2009. "Minimum wages, wages and employment in various sectors in Honduras," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(3), pages 291-303, June.
  4. Sara Lemos, 2006. "Minimum Wage Effects in a Developing Country," Discussion Papers in Economics 06/1, Department of Economics, University of Leicester.
  5. Gindling, T.H. & Terrell, Katherine, 2007. "The effects of multiple minimum wages throughout the labor market: The case of Costa Rica," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(3), pages 485-511, June.
  6. Dominik H. Enste & Friedrich Schneider, 2000. "Shadow Economies: Size, Causes, and Consequences," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 38(1), pages 77-114, March.
  7. Gong, Xiaodong & van Soest, Arthur, 2001. "Wage Differentials and Mobility in the Urban Labor Market: A Panel Data Analysis for Mexico," IZA Discussion Papers 329, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  8. Olivier Charlot & Franck Malherbet & Cristina Terra, 2010. "Product Market Regulation, Firm Size, Unemployment and Informality in Developing Economies," Cahiers de recherche 1043, CIRPEE.
  9. Sara lemos, 2004. "The Effects of the Minimum Wage in the Formal and Informal Sectors in Brazil," Discussion Papers in Economics 04/8, Department of Economics, University of Leicester.
  10. Kanbur, Ravi, 2009. "Conceptualizing Informality: Regulation and Enforcement," Working Papers 48926, Cornell University, Department of Applied Economics and Management.
  11. Strobl, Eric & Walsh, Frank, 2003. "Minimum Wages and Compliance: The Case of Trinidad and Tobago," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 51(2), pages 427-50, January.
  12. James J. Heckman & Carmen Pagés, 2004. "Law and Employment: Lessons from Latin America and the Caribbean," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number heck04-1, October.
  13. Gong, Xiaodong & van Soest, Arthur & Villagomez, Elizabeth, 2000. "Mobility in the Urban Labor Market: A Panel Data Analysis for Mexico," IZA Discussion Papers 213, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  14. Gindling, T.H. & Terrell, Katherine, 2008. "Minimum Wages, Globalization, and Poverty in Honduras," Working Paper Series RP2008/23, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
  15. Friedrich Schneider & Dominik Enste, 2000. "Shadow Economies Around the World: Size, Causes, and Consequences," IMF Working Papers 00/26, International Monetary Fund.
  16. Ramey, Garey & Watson, Joel, 1997. "Contractual Fragility, Job Destruction, and Business Cycles," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(3), pages 873-911, August.
  17. Tito Boeri & Pietro Garibaldi, 2005. "Shadow Sorting," NBER Chapters, in: NBER International Seminar on Macroeconomics 2005, pages 125-163 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Portugal, Pedro & Cardoso, Ana Rute, 2002. "Disentangling the Minimum Wage Puzzle: An Analysis of Worker Accessions and Separations," IZA Discussion Papers 544, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  19. William F. Maloney & Jairo Nunez Mendez, 2003. "Measuring the Impact of Minimum Wages: Evidence from Latin America," NBER Working Papers 9800, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  20. repec:dgr:kubcen:200046 is not listed on IDEAS
  21. Pedro Portugal & Ana Rute Cardoso, 2002. "Disentangling the Minimum Wage Puzzle: An Analysis of Worker Accessions and Separations from Longitudinal Matched Employer-Employee Data Set," Working Papers w200208, Banco de Portugal, Economics and Research Department.
  22. James J. Heckman & Carmen Pagés, 2004. "Introduction to "Law and Employment: Lessons from Latin American and the Caribbean"," NBER Chapters, in: Law and Employment: Lessons from Latin America and the Caribbean, pages 1-108 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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