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Social Security Coverage and the Labor Market in Developing Countries


  • Paula Auerbach
  • María Eugenia Genoni
  • Carmen Pagés-Serra



This paper analyzes the reasons behind the low rates of contribution to social security programs in developing countries. Using a large set of harmonized household surveys from Latin America we compare contribution patterns among wage employees, for whom participation is compulsory, with contribution patterns among self-employed workers, for whom participation is often voluntary. In all countries, contribution rates among salaried workers are similarly correlated with education, earnings, size of the employer, household characteristics and age. In addition, contribution patterns among salaried workers are highly correlated with contribution patterns among the self-employed. Our results indicate that on average more than 30 percent of the explained within-country variance in contributions patterns may be accounted for by individuals’ low willingness to participate in old-age pension programs. Nonetheless, we also find evidence suggesting that some workers are rationed out of social security against their will.

Suggested Citation

  • Paula Auerbach & María Eugenia Genoni & Carmen Pagés-Serra, 2005. "Social Security Coverage and the Labor Market in Developing Countries," Research Department Publications 4421, Inter-American Development Bank, Research Department.
  • Handle: RePEc:idb:wpaper:4421

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Gong, Xiaodong & Van Soest, Arthur & Villagomez, Elizabeth, 2004. "Mobility in the Urban Labor Market: A Panel Data Analysis for Mexico," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 53(1), pages 1-36, October.
    2. Sara lemos, 2004. "The Effects of the Minimum Wage in the Formal and Informal Sectors in Brazil," Discussion Papers in Economics 04/8, Department of Economics, University of Leicester.
    3. James J. Heckman & Carmen Pagés, 2004. "Law and Employment: Lessons from Latin America and the Caribbean," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number heck04-1, January.
    4. Gong, Xiaodong & van Soest, Arthur, 2002. "Wage differentials and mobility in the urban labour market: a panel data analysis for Mexico," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 9(4), pages 513-529, September.
    5. Barr, Abigail & Packard, Truman, 2002. "Revealed preference and self-insurance - Can we learn from the self-employed in Chile?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2754, The World Bank.
    6. Bosch, Mariano & Maloney, William, 2005. "Labor market dynamics in developing countries: comparative analysis using continuous time Markov processes," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3583, The World Bank.
    7. Gruber, Jonathan, 1997. "The Incidence of Payroll Taxation: Evidence from Chile," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 15(3), pages 72-101, July.
    8. James J. Heckman & Carmen Pagés, 2004. "Introduction to "Law and Employment: Lessons from Latin American and the Caribbean"," NBER Chapters,in: Law and Employment: Lessons from Latin America and the Caribbean, pages 1-108 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Sara de la Rica & Thomas Lemieux, 1994. "Does Public Health Insurance Reduce Labor Market Flexibility or Encourage the Underground Economy? Evidence from Spain and the United States," NBER Chapters,in: Social Protection versus Economic Flexibility: Is There a Trade-Off?, pages 265-300 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Maloney, William F., 2004. "Informality Revisited," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 32(7), pages 1159-1178, July.
    11. Guillermo Mondino & Silvia Montoya, 2004. "The Effects of Labor Market Regulations on Employment Decisions by Firms. Empirical Evidence for Argentina," NBER Chapters,in: Law and Employment: Lessons from Latin America and the Caribbean, pages 351-400 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Sebastian Edwards & Alejandra Cox Edwards, 2002. "Social Security Privatization Reform and Labor Markets: The Case of Chile," NBER Working Papers 8924, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Mesa-Lago, Carmelo, 2004. "Las reformas de pensiones en América Latina y su impacto en los principios de la seguridad social," Financiamiento para el Desarrollo 144, Naciones Unidas Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe (CEPAL).
    14. Jaime Saavedra & Alberto Chong, 1999. "Structural reform, institutions and earnings: Evidence from the formal and informal sectors in urban Peru," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 35(4), pages 95-116.
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    16. Maloney, William F, 1999. "Does Informality Imply Segmentation in Urban Labor Markets? Evidence from Sectoral Transitions in Mexico," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 13(2), pages 275-302, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Marisa Bucheli & Rodrigo Ceni, 2010. "Informality Sectoral Selection and Earnings in Uruguay," Estudios Económicos, El Colegio de México, Centro de Estudios Económicos, vol. 25(2), pages 281-307.
    2. David E. Bloom & Dara Lee Luca, 2016. "The Global Demography of Aging: Facts, Explanations, Future," PGDA Working Papers 13016, Program on the Global Demography of Aging.
    3. Roushdy, Rania & Selwaness, Irène, 2017. "Who Is Covered and Who Underreports: An Empirical Analysis of Access to Social Insurance on the Egyptian Labor Market," GLO Discussion Paper Series 29, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
    4. Bloom, David E. & Luca, Dara Lee, 2016. "The Global Demography of Aging: Facts, Explanations, Future," IZA Discussion Papers 10163, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    5. Cristina Fernández & Leonardo Villar, 2017. "Taxonomía de la informalidad en América Latina," WORKING PAPERS SERIES. DOCUMENTOS DE TRABAJO 015814, FEDESARROLLO.
    6. María Claudia LLANES VALENZUELA & Gabriel Armando PIRAQUIVE G., 2012. "Sistemas pensionales y solidarios de Chile, Irlanda,Polonia, Brasil y Perú," ARCHIVOS DE ECONOMÍA 009596, DEPARTAMENTO NACIONAL DE PLANEACIÓN.
    7. repec:eee:hapoch:v1_3 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Marisa Bucheli & Alvaro Forteza & Ianina Rossi, 2007. "Work history and the access to contributory pensions. The case of Uruguay," Documentos de Trabajo (working papers) 1607, Department of Economics - dECON.
    9. Xi Chen & Lipeng Hu & Jody L. Sindelar, 2017. "Leaving Money on the Table? Suboptimal Enrollment in the New Social Pension Program in China," NBER Working Papers 24065, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J32 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Nonwage Labor Costs and Benefits; Retirement Plans; Private Pensions
    • J81 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Standards - - - Working Conditions


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