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Uncertainty and the Politics of Employment Protection

  • Vindigni, Andrea

    (Princeton U)

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    This paper investigates the role that idiosyncratic uncertainty plays in shaping social preferences over the degree of labor market flexibility, in a general equilibrium model of dynamic labor demand where the productivity of firms evolves over time as a Geometric Brownian mo- tion. A key result demonstrated is that how the economy responds to shocks, i.e. unexpected changes in the drift and standard deviation of the stochastic process describing the dynamics of productivity, depends on the power of labor to extract rents and on the status quo level of firing costs. In particular, we show that when firing costs are relatively low to begin with, a transition to a rigid labor market is favored by all and only the employed workers with idiosyncratic productivity below some threshold value. A more volatile environment, and a lower rate of productivity growth, i.e. "bad times", increase the political support for more labor market rigidity only where labor appropriates relatively large rents. Moreover, we demonstrate that when the status quo level of firing costs is relatively high, the preservation of a rigid labor market is favored by the employed with intermediate productivity, whereas all other workers favor more flexibility. The coming of better economic conditions need not favor the demise of high firing costs in rigid high-rent economies, because "good times" cut down the support for flexibility among the least productive employed workers. The model provides some new insights on the comparative dynamics of labor market institutions in the U.S. and in Europe over the last few decades, shedding some new light both on the reasons for the original build-up of "Eurosclerosis", and for its the persistence up to the present day.

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    Paper provided by Princeton University, Research Program in Political Economy in its series Papers with number 05-27-2008.

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    Date of creation: Jun 2008
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    Handle: RePEc:ecl:prirpe:05-27-2008
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    1. Bentolila, Samuel & Bertola, Giuseppe, 1990. "Firing Costs and Labour Demand: How Bad Is Eurosclerosis?," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 57(3), pages 381-402, July.
    2. Daron Acemoglu & Davide Ticchi & Andrea Vindigni, 2006. "Emergence and Persistence of Inefficient States," NBER Working Papers 12748, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Dale T. Mortensen & Christopher A. Pissarides, 1993. "Job Creation and Job Destruction in the Theory of Unemployment," CEP Discussion Papers dp0110, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    4. Acemoglu, Daron & Robinson, James A, 1999. "Inefficient Redistribution," CEPR Discussion Papers 2122, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    5. Lars Ljungqvist & Thomas J. Sargent, 1996. "The European Unemployment Dilemma," EUI-RSCAS Working Papers 36, European University Institute (EUI), Robert Schuman Centre of Advanced Studies (RSCAS).
    6. Gilles Saint Paul, 1999. "The political economy of employment protection," Economics Working Papers 355, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
    7. Hassler, John & Mora, José V Rodríguez & Storesletten, Kjetil & Zilibotti, Fabrizio, 2001. "A Positive Theory of Geographic Mobility and Social Insurance," CEPR Discussion Papers 2964, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    8. Peter Gottschalk & Robert Moffitt, 1994. "The Growth of Earnings Instability in the U.S. Labor Market," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 25(2), pages 217-272.
    9. Saint-Paul, G., 1993. "On the Political Economy of Labor Market Flexibility," DELTA Working Papers 93-02, DELTA (Ecole normale supérieure).
    10. Diego Comin & Thomas Philippon, 2005. "The Rise in Firm-Level Volatility: Causes and Consequences," NBER Working Papers 11388, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Fernandez, Raquel & Rodrik, Dani, 1991. "Resistance to Reform: Status Quo Bias in the Presence of Individual-Specific Uncertainty," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(5), pages 1146-55, December.
    12. Bertola, Giuseppe, 1990. "Flexibility, Investment and Growth," CEPR Discussion Papers 422, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    13. Brügemann, Björn, 2006. "Does Employment Protection Create Its Own Political Support?," IZA Discussion Papers 2286, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    14. MacLeod, W Bentley & Malcomson, James M & Gomme, Paul, 1994. "Labor Turnover and the Natural Rate of Unemployment: Efficiency Wage versus Frictional Unemployment," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 12(2), pages 276-315, April.
    15. repec:iza:izadps:dp1067 is not listed on IDEAS
    16. Olivier Blanchard & Justin Wolfers, 1999. "The Role of Shocks and Institutions in the Rise of European Unemployment: The Aggregate Evidence," NBER Working Papers 7282, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    17. Coate, Stephen & Morris, Stephen, 1995. "On the Form of Transfers in Special Interests," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(6), pages 1210-35, December.
    18. Stephen Morris & Stephen Coate, 1999. "Policy Persistence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(5), pages 1327-1336, December.
    19. Hopenhayn, Hugo & Rogerson, Richard, 1993. "Job Turnover and Policy Evaluation: A General Equilibrium Analysis," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(5), pages 915-38, October.
    20. Hassler, John & Rodriguez Mora, Jose V., 1999. "Employment turnover and the public allocation of unemployment insurance," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 73(1), pages 55-83, July.
    21. Caballero, Ricardo J. & Hammour, Mohamad L., 1998. "Jobless growth: appropriability, factor substitution, and unemployment," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 48(1), pages 51-94, June.
    22. Pedro Portugal & Olivier Blanchard, 2001. "What Hides Behind an Unemployment Rate: Comparing Portuguese and U.S. Labor Markets," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(1), pages 187-207, March.
    23. Andrea Vindigni, 2002. "Uncertainty and the Politics of Employment Protection," Working Papers 844, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
    24. Shapiro, Carl & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1984. "Equilibrium Unemployment as a Worker Discipline Device," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(3), pages 433-44, June.
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