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Informality as a Stepping Stone: A Search-Theoretical Assessment of Informal Sector and Government Policy

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  • Tumen, Semih

    () (TED University)

Abstract

This paper develops a model of sequential job search to understand the factors determining the effect of tax and enforcement policies on the size (i.e., employment share) of the informal sector. The focus is on the role of informal sector as a stepping stone to formal jobs. I argue that the stepping-stone role of informal jobs is an important concept determining how strongly government policies affect the size of informal sector. I measure the extent of the stepping-stone role with the intensity of skill accumulation in the informal sector. If informal jobs help workers acquire skills, gain expertise, and build professional networks for boosting the chances to switch to a formal job, then the size of the informal sector is less sensitive to government policy. In this case, the option value of a job in the informal sector will be high and a worker with an informal job will not rush to switch to a formal job when a policy encouraging formal employment is in effect. If, on the other hand, the informal sector does not provide satisfactory training opportunities, then the size of the informal sector becomes more sensitive to government policy. Calibrating the model to the Brazilian data, I perform numerical exercises confirming that the effect of government policy on the size of the informal sector is a decreasing function of the intensity of skill acquisition in the informal sector.

Suggested Citation

  • Tumen, Semih, 2016. "Informality as a Stepping Stone: A Search-Theoretical Assessment of Informal Sector and Government Policy," IZA Discussion Papers 10116, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp10116
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Carmen Pagés-Serra, 2000. "The Cost of Job Security Regulation: Evidence from Latin American Labor Markets," Economía Journal, The Latin American and Caribbean Economic Association - LACEA, vol. 0(Fall 2000), pages 109-154, August.
    2. Esteban-Pretel, Julen & Nakajima, Ryo & Tanaka, Ryuichi, 2011. "Are contingent jobs dead ends or stepping stones to regular jobs? Evidence from a structural estimation," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(4), pages 513-526, August.
    3. Günther, Isabel & Launov, Andrey, 2012. "Informal employment in developing countries," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 97(1), pages 88-98.
    4. Carmen Pagés-Serra & James J. Heckman, 2000. "The Cost of Job Security Regulation: Evidence from Latin American Labor Markets," Research Department Publications 4227, Inter-American Development Bank, Research Department.
    5. Fields, Gary S., 1975. "Rural-urban migration, urban unemployment and underemployment, and job-search activity in LDCs," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 2(2), pages 165-187, June.
    6. Ulyssea, Gabriel, 2010. "Regulation of entry, labor market institutions and the informal sector," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(1), pages 87-99, January.
    7. Friedman, Eric & Johnson, Simon & Kaufmann, Daniel & Zoido-Lobaton, Pablo, 2000. "Dodging the grabbing hand: the determinants of unofficial activity in 69 countries," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 76(3), pages 459-493, June.
    8. Ceyhun Elgin, 2010. "Political Turnover, Taxes and the Shadow Economy," Working Papers 2010/08, Bogazici University, Department of Economics.
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    Cited by:

    1. Semih Tumen, 2017. "Entrepreneurship in the shadows," The Economics of Transition, The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, vol. 25(2), pages 239-269, April.
    2. Semih Tumen, 2015. "Skill Acquisition in the Informal Economy and Schooling Decisions: Evidence from Emerging Economies," LABOUR, CEIS, vol. 29(3), pages 270-290, September.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    government policy; stepping stone; informal sector; job search; human capital; option value;

    JEL classification:

    • E26 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Informal Economy; Underground Economy
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J38 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Public Policy
    • J64 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Unemployment: Models, Duration, Incidence, and Job Search

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