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Some unpleasant arithmetics of regional unemployment in the EU. Are there any lessons for EMU?

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  • Lucio R. Pench
  • Paolo Sestito
  • Elisabetta Frontini

Abstract

Several studies have documented the weak response of regional wage differentials and labour mobility following region-specific (“idiosyncratic†) shocks in the average of the EU countries. This has been often taken as evidence of the rigidity of labour markets in European countries, as opposed to the flexibility of the USA. However, as such shocks by definition average to zero, one cannot make an explicit link between the (lack of) adjustment at regional level and aggregate unemployment. Moreover, the emphasis on the reaction to short-run idiosyncratic shocks is unlikely to explain the permanent differentials across regions, which characterise the regional distribution of unemployment in many EU countries. This paper tries to provide a better understanding of the regional distribution of unemployment and why region-specific shocks can matter for aggregate unemployment. It does so by explicitly considering the possibility of asymmetric reactions, so that unemployment rises more in poorer areas suffering an adverse shock than it declines in richer regions experiencing a favourable shock. The reason behind such asymmetries is the presence of a wage floor in the poorer regions resulting from policy centralisation, as for instance in the case of a national unemployment compensation system, which provides benefits that are uniform across regions. If such a mechanism is at work, aggregate unemployment tends to be “inflated†by region-specific shocks that are inequality- increasing. After presenting an illustrative model of the mechanism, the paper proposes a simple measure of the resulting “excess unemployment†, based on the difference between the average (national) unemployment rate and the unemployment rate of the median region. It also examines the relationship between regional asymmetries in unemployment and the dispersion of productivity across regions, taken as proxy of the inequality-increasing shocks. The evidence, while not entirely conclusive, justifies two tentative policy conclusions, which are particularly relevant in the context of EMU: a) to avoid centralisation of labour market institutions at the EU level that may end up inflating aggregate unemployment; b) to effectively deploy regional policies to combat inequality- increasing shocks.

Suggested Citation

  • Lucio R. Pench & Paolo Sestito & Elisabetta Frontini, 1999. "Some unpleasant arithmetics of regional unemployment in the EU. Are there any lessons for EMU?," European Economy - Economic Papers 2008 - 2015 134, Directorate General Economic and Financial Affairs (DG ECFIN), European Commission.
  • Handle: RePEc:euf:ecopap:0134
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Roberto Bande Ramudo & Melchor Fernández Fernández & Víctor Montuenga Gómez, 2011. "Wage flexibility and local labour markets: homogeneity of the wage curve in Spain," Documentos de trabajo - Analise Economica 0044, IDEGA - Instituto Universitario de Estudios e Desenvolvemento de Galicia.
    2. Marelli, Enrico, 1999. "Convergence and asymmetries in the employment dynamics of the European regions," ERSA conference papers ersa99pa120, European Regional Science Association.
    3. Floro Ernesto Caroleo & Gianluigi Coppola, 2006. "The Impact of the Institutions on Regional Unemployment Disparities in Europe," Discussion Papers 4_2006, D.E.S. (Department of Economic Studies), University of Naples "Parthenope", Italy.
    4. Floro Ernesto Caroleo & Gianluigi Coppola, 2005. "The impact of institutions on Regional unemployment disparities," ERSA conference papers ersa05p758, European Regional Science Association.
    5. Stepán Jurajda & Katherine Terrell, 2009. "Regional unemployment and human capital in transition economies," The Economics of Transition, The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, pages 241-274.
    6. Luminita VOCHITA & George CIOBANU & Andreea CIOBANU, 2008. "Implications of wage bargaining systems on regional differentiation in the European Union," Annals of University of Craiova - Economic Sciences Series, University of Craiova, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, vol. 2(36), pages 862-873, may.
    7. Athanasios Vamvakidis, 2009. "Regional Wage Differentiation and Wage Bargaining Systems in the European Union," Financial Theory and Practice, Institute of Public Finance, vol. 33(1), pages 73-87.
    8. Floro Ernesto Caroleo & Gianluigi Coppola, 2006. "Le cause dei divari regionali della disoccupazione in Europa," RIVISTA DI ECONOMIA E STATISTICA DEL TERRITORIO, FrancoAngeli Editore, vol. 2006(1).
    9. Sarantis LOLOS & Evangelia PAPAPETROU, 2012. "Unemployment disparities and persistence Assessing the evidence from Greek regions, 1981-2008," Regional and Sectoral Economic Studies, Euro-American Association of Economic Development, vol. 12(1), pages 69-90.
    10. Basile, Roberto & Padoa Schioppa, Fiorella Kostoris, 2002. "Unemployment Dynamics of the 'Mezzogiornos of Europe': Lessons for the Mezzogiorno of Italy," CEPR Discussion Papers 3594, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    11. Peter Huber, 2008. "Regional Labour Market Disparities in an Enlarged European Union," WIFO Working Papers 309, WIFO.
    12. Adalgiso Amendola & Floro Ernesto Caroleo & Gianluigi Coppola, 2003. "Regional differences in the European labour market," ERSA conference papers ersa03p200, European Regional Science Association.
    13. Roberto Basile & Luca De Benedictis, 2004. "Regional Unemployment and Productivity in Europe and the US," ERSA conference papers ersa04p38, European Regional Science Association.
    14. Athanasios Vamvakidis, 2008. "Regional Wage Differentiation and Wage Bargaining Systems in the EU," IMF Working Papers 08/43, International Monetary Fund.
    15. Floro Ernesto Caroleo – Gianluigi Coppola & Gianluigi Coppola, 2005. "The Impact of the Institutions on Regional Unemployment Disparities," CELPE Discussion Papers 98, CELPE - Centre of Labour Economics and Economic Policy, University of Salerno, Italy.
    16. Cristiano Perugini & Marcello Signorelli, 2007. "Labour Market Performance Differentials and Dynamics in EU-15 Countries and Regions," European Journal of Comparative Economics, Cattaneo University (LIUC), vol. 4(2), pages 209-262, September.

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    Keywords

    regional policy; unemployment; disparities;

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