Informal Labor Markets and Macroeconomic Fluctuations
This paper examines the adjustment of developing country labor markets to macroeconomic shocks. It models a two sector labor market: a formal salaried (tradable) sector that may or may not be affected by union or legislation induced wage rigidities, and an unregulated (nontradable) self-employment sector facing liquidity constraints to entry. This is embedded in a standard small economy macro model that permits the derivation of patterns of comovement among relative salaried/self-employed incomes, salaried/self-employed sector sizes and the real exchange rate with respect to different types of shocks in contexts with and without wage rigidities. The paper then explores time series data from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Mexico to test for cointegrating relationships corresponding to the patterns predicted by theory. We identify two types of regime. The first corresponds to periods where demand shocks to the nontradable sector offer new opportunities to (informal) entrepreneurs, the informal sector expands “procyclically,” and the exchange rate overshoots toward appreciation in the short run, or remains at its productivity determined levels. The second corresponds to periods of negative shocks to the formal salaried sector in the presence of wage rigidities where the sector plays a more traditional “buffer” role during downturns.
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