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Labor Surplus Revisited

Author

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  • Gustav Ranis

    () (Economic Growth Center, Yale University)

Abstract

Unskilled labor is the abundant resource in many developing countries, especially at an early stage of their development. Yet, even as at given technologies labor markets have not cleared, neo-classical economists have rejected the notion of an institutional or bargaining wage not based on competitive full employment marginal productivity fundamentals. This paper puts to rest some objections to labor surplus theory based on “red herrings” and then addresses the substantive challenges from the micro-econometric branch of neo-classical economics. We contend that the finding of inelastic supply curves of labor is based on a cross-section static analysis of labor supply within agriculture while the labor surplus model deals with tracing the dynamic reallocation of labor from a traditional to a neo-classical organized sector in a dualistic economy. We present data for a number of labor surplus developing countries showing that institutional wages lag behind agricultural productivity increases as countries move towards a “turning point” when inter-sectoral balanced growth has eliminated unskilled labor and the economy has lost its dual characteristic.

Suggested Citation

  • Gustav Ranis, 2012. "Labor Surplus Revisited," Working Papers 1016, Economic Growth Center, Yale University.
  • Handle: RePEc:egc:wpaper:1016
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    File URL: http://www.econ.yale.edu/growth_pdf/cdp1016.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Manning,Chris, 1998. "Indonesian Labour in Transition," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521594127.
    2. Ranis, Gustav & Stewart, Frances, 1993. "Rural nonagricultural activities in development : Theory and application," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(1), pages 75-101, February.
    3. K.V. Ramaswamy, 2008. "Wage Inequality in Indian Manufacturing - Is it Trade, Technology or Labour Regulations?," Labor Economics Working Papers 22361, East Asian Bureau of Economic Research.
    4. Vollrath, Dietrich, 2009. "How important are dual economy effects for aggregate productivity?," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(2), pages 325-334, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Subir Bairagi & Muntaseer Kamal, 2019. "Is Bangladesh’s Economy Approaching the Lewis Turning Point?," South Asia Economic Journal, Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka, vol. 20(1), pages 19-45, March.
    2. Zhang, Xiaobo & Rashid, Shahidur & Ahmad, Kaikaus & Ahmed, Akhter, 2014. "Escalation of Real Wages in Bangladesh: Is it the Beginning of Structural Transformation?," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 64(C), pages 273-285.
    3. Briones, Roehlano & Felipe, Jesus, 2013. "Agriculture and Structural Transformation in Developing Asia: Review and Outlook," ADB Economics Working Paper Series 363, Asian Development Bank.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    development; labor surplus; neo-classical economics; turning point labor markets;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • O10 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - General
    • O11 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Macroeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • O17 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Formal and Informal Sectors; Shadow Economy; Institutional Arrangements
    • O18 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Urban, Rural, Regional, and Transportation Analysis; Housing; Infrastructure
    • O41 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - One, Two, and Multisector Growth Models
    • O43 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Institutions and Growth
    • O57 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Comparative Studies of Countries

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