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The Matthew effect of unemployment: how does it affect wages in Belgium


  • Amynah Vanessa Gangji
  • Robert Plasman


Better understand the consequences of unemployment in terms of labour market opportunities as well as psychological well-being is of primary importance for any policies aimed at reducing unemployment. One way by which unemployment may impact on future labour market outcomes is through a reduction of subsequent earnings. This study therefore investigates the effects of the incidence and duration of unemployment on re-entry wages in Belgium using the Panel Study on Belgian Households for the period 1994-2002. The methodology used is based on a fixed effects model controlling for unobserved heterogeneity and sample selection bias. Results suggest that unemployment most often has a detrimental effect in terms of future labour market prospects. In other words, it can hardly be seen as an investment period allowing the unemployed to find a better match afterwards. The unemployment penalty may vanish if the unemployed find a stable job. However they are most often characterized by smaller average number of tenure years than individuals who did not go through such an experience. Consequently there is a risk that individuals having experienced unemployment will never be able to eliminate the wage penalty if they do not enter into stable job. Finally, we have found robust evidence that the wage penalty increases as the unemployment spell lengthens. This result is particularly alarming given the high proportion of long term unemployment in Belgium. These conclusions imply that unemployment costs go beyond the simple loss of income and human capital associated with job loss. This implies a substantial leeway for public intervention.

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  • Amynah Vanessa Gangji & Robert Plasman, 2007. "The Matthew effect of unemployment: how does it affect wages in Belgium," DULBEA Working Papers 07-19.RS, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  • Handle: RePEc:dul:wpaper:07-19rs

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    1. Jean-Luc Demeulemeester & Olivier Debande, 2008. "Quality and Variety Competition in Higher Education," Working Papers 08-10, Association Française de Cliométrie (AFC).
    2. Bernal, Oscar & Oosterlinck, Kim & Szafarz, Ariane, 2010. "Observing bailout expectations during a total eclipse of the sun," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 29(7), pages 1193-1205, November.
    3. Ariane Szafarz, 2007. "Hiring people-like-yourself: a representation of discrimination on the job market," DULBEA Working Papers 07-21.RS, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
    4. Corinna Ghirelli, 2015. "Scars of early non-employment for low educated youth: evidence and policy lessons from Belgium," IZA Journal of European Labor Studies, Springer;Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit GmbH (IZA), vol. 4(1), pages 1-34, December.
    5. Bart Cockx & Matteo Picchio, 2013. "Scarring effects of remaining unemployed for long-term unemployed school-leavers," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A, Royal Statistical Society, vol. 176(4), pages 951-980, October.
    6. Hassan Ayoub & Jérôme Creel & Etienne Farvaque, 2008. "Détermination du niveau des prix et finances: le cas du Liban 1965-2005," DULBEA Working Papers 08-10.RS, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
    7. Benoît Mahy & François Rycx & Mélanie Volral, 2008. "L'influence de la dispersion salariale sur la performance des grandes entreprises belges," Reflets et perspectives de la vie économique, De Boeck Université, vol. 0(3), pages 27-40.
    8. Charles Plaigin, 2009. "Exploratory study on the presence of cultural and institutional growth spillovers," DULBEA Working Papers 09-03.RS, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
    9. Ansgar Rannenberg, 2010. "The Taylor principle and (in-)determinacy in a New Keynesian model with hiring frictions and skill loss," Working Paper Research 208, National Bank of Belgium.
    10. Sile Padraigin O'Dorchai, 2008. "Pay inequality in 25 European countries," DULBEA Working Papers 0006, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
    11. Corinna GHIRELLI, 2015. "Scars of early non-employment in a rigid labour market," Discussion Papers (IRES - Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales) 2015008, Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES).
    12. Pierre-Guillaume Méon & Ariane Szafarz, 2008. "Labor market discrimination as an agency cost," DULBEA Working Papers 08-19.RS, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
    13. Caroline Gerschlager, 2008. "Foolishness and identity: Amartya Sen and Adam Smith," DULBEA Working Papers 08-03.RS, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
    14. Corinna.Ghirelli, 2014. "The scarring effect of early non-employment," Working Papers of Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, Ghent University, Belgium 14/895, Ghent University, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration.
    15. Abdeslam Marfouk, 2008. "The African brain drain: scope and determinants," DULBEA Working Papers 08-07.RS, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.

    More about this item


    unemployment incidence and duration; wage penalty; fixed effects model; sample selection bias.;

    JEL classification:

    • C23 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Single Equation Models; Single Variables - - - Models with Panel Data; Spatio-temporal Models
    • J64 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Unemployment: Models, Duration, Incidence, and Job Search

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