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Unions, Firing Costs and Unemployment

  • Modesto, Leonor


    (Universidade Catolica Portuguesa, Lisbon)

In this paper we conduct an analysis of the effects of firing costs in models that consider simultaneously worker heterogeneity, imperfect information on their productivity and union power. We consider an OLG model where heterogeneous workers participate in the labour market both when young and old. Each generation of workers is represented by its own union. Unions set wages unilaterally taking into account firm behavior. Firms are atomistic and choose employment treating wages parametrically. There is imperfect information about worker productivity. We find that at given wages firing costs increase youth unemployment and decrease old age unemployment. However, once we take the wage response into account, we find that firing costs increase both youth and old age unemployment. This happens because unions react strategically, and respond to higher firing costs. Indeed, when firing costs increase, firms refrain from hiring youths since, if a young worker turns out to be inadequate, it will be more costly to fire him. The union, knowing this, reduces the wage of young workers in order to attempt to increase their employment prospects. However, despite this cut youth unemployment still increases with firing costs. In the second period, on the contrary, higher firing costs give the union more power. In fact, knowing that firms will be less likely to cut their labour force when firing costs are high, the union increases the wage of old workers, and, therefore, old age unemployment increases.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 1157.

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Length: 46 pages
Date of creation: May 2004
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in: Labour, 2008, 22 (3), 509 - 546
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp1157
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  1. Giuseppe Bertola & Richard Rogerson, 1996. "Institutions and Labor Reallocation," NBER Working Papers 5828, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Layard, Richard & Nickell, Stephen & Jackman, Richard, 2005. "Unemployment: Macroeconomic Performance and the Labour Market," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199279173.
  3. Adriana D. Kugler & Gilles Saint Paul, 2000. "Hiring and firing costs, adverse selection and long-term unemployment," Economics Working Papers 447, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
  4. Machin, Stephen & Manning, Alan, 1999. "The causes and consequences of longterm unemployment in Europe," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 47, pages 3085-3139 Elsevier.
  5. Bentolila, Samuel & Bertola, Giuseppe, 1990. "Firing Costs and Labour Demand: How Bad Is Eurosclerosis?," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 57(3), pages 381-402, July.
  6. Gibbons, Robert & Katz, Lawrence F, 1991. "Layoffs and Lemons," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 9(4), pages 351-80, October.
  7. Tito Boeri & Juan F. Jimeno, 2003. "The Effects of Employment Protection: Learning from Variable Enforcement," Working Papers 252, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
  8. Montgomery, James D, 1999. "Adverse Selection and Employment Cycles," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 17(2), pages 281-97, April.
  9. Bertola, Giuseppe, 1990. "Job security, employment and wages," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 34(4), pages 851-879, June.
  10. Oswald, Andrew J, 1982. "The Microeconomic Theory of the Trade Union," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 92(367), pages 576-95, September.
  11. Modesto, Leonor & Thomas, Jonathan P., 2001. "An analysis of labour adjustment costs in unionized economies," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 8(4), pages 475-501, September.
  12. Hopenhayn, Hugo & Rogerson, Richard, 1993. "Job Turnover and Policy Evaluation: A General Equilibrium Analysis," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(5), pages 915-38, October.
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