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Uncertainty and the Politics of Employment Protection

  • Vindigni, Andrea

    ()

    (IMT Lucca)

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    This paper investigates the role that idiosyncratic uncertainty plays in shaping social preferences over the degree of labor market flexibility, in a general equilibrium model of dynamic labor demand where the productivity of firms evolves over time as a Geometric Brownian motion. A key result demonstrated is that how the economy responds to shocks, i.e. unexpected changes in the drift and standard deviation of the stochastic process describing the dynamics of productivity, depends on the power of labor to extract rents and on the status quo level of firing costs. In particular, we show that when firing costs are relatively low to begin with, a transition to a rigid labor market is favored by all and only the employed workers with idiosyncratic productivity below some threshold value. A more volatile environment, and a lower rate of productivity growth, i.e. “bad times,” increase the political support for more labor market rigidity only where labor appropriates of relatively large rents. Moreover, we demonstrate that when the status quo level of firing costs is relatively high, the preservation of a rigid labor market is favored by the employed with intermediate productivity, whereas all other workers favor more flexibility. The coming of better economic conditions need not favor the demise of high firing costs in rigid high-rents economies, because “good times” cut down the support for flexibility among the least productive employed workers. The model described provides some new insights on the comparative dynamics of labor market institutions in the U.S. and in Europe over the last few decades, shedding some new light both on the reasons for the original build-up of “Eurosclerosis,” and for its the persistence up to the present day.

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    Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 3509.

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    Length: 47 pages
    Date of creation: May 2008
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp3509
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    1. Ljungqvist, Lars & Sargent, Thomas J., 1997. "The European Unemployment Dilemma," Working Paper Series 481, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
    2. Acemoglu, Daron & Robinson, James A, 1999. "Inefficient Redistribution," CEPR Discussion Papers 2122, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    3. Diego A. Comin & Thomas Philippon, 2006. "The Rise in Firm-Level Volatility: Causes and Consequences," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2005, Volume 20, pages 167-228 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Caballero, Ricardo J. & Hammour, Mohamad L., 1998. "Jobless growth: appropriability, factor substitution, and unemployment," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 48(1), pages 51-94, June.
    5. Dale T. Mortensen & Christopher A. Pissarides, 1993. "Job Creation and Job Destruction in the Theory of Unemployment," CEP Discussion Papers dp0110, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    6. Stephen Coate & Stephen Morris, . "Policy Persistence," Penn CARESS Working Papers 8a66677895e9fcb3f6d813c0c, Penn Economics Department.
    7. Saint-Paul, Gilles, 1993. "On the Political Economy of Labour Market Flexibility," CEPR Discussion Papers 803, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    8. Pedro Portugal & Olivier Blanchard, 2001. "What Hides Behind an Unemployment Rate: Comparing Portuguese and U.S. Labor Markets," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(1), pages 187-207, March.
    9. Saint-Paul, Gilles, 1999. "The Political Economy of Employment Protection," CEPR Discussion Papers 2109, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    10. Blanchard, Olivier & Wolfers, Justin, 2000. "The Role of Shocks and Institutions in the Rise of European Unemployment: The Aggregate Evidence," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 110(462), pages C1-33, March.
    11. Giuseppe Bertola, 1991. "Flexibility, Investment, and Growth," NBER Working Papers 3864, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Acemoglu, D. & Ticchi, D. & Vindigni, A., 2006. "Emergence and Persistence of Inefficient States," Papers 12-02-2006, Princeton University, Research Program in Political Economy.
    13. repec:iza:izadps:dp1067 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. Giles Saint-Paul, 2005. "Did European Labor Markets Become More Competitive in the 1990s? Evidence from Estimated Worker Rents," Central Banking, Analysis, and Economic Policies Book Series, in: Jorge Restrepo & Andrea Tokman R. & Norman Loayza (Series Editor) & Klaus Schmidt-Hebbel (Series Edi (ed.), Labor Markets and Institutions, edition 1, volume 8, chapter 8, pages 281-300 Central Bank of Chile.
    15. Fernandez, Raquel & Rodrik, Dani, 1991. "Resistance to Reform: Status Quo Bias in the Presence of Individual-Specific Uncertainty," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(5), pages 1146-55, December.
    16. Brugemann, Bjorn, 2006. "Does Employment Protection Create Its Own Political Support?," Working Papers 20, Yale University, Department of Economics.
    17. 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.
    18. Peter Gottschalk & Robert Moffitt, 1994. "The Growth of Earnings Instability in the U.S. Labor Market," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 25(2), pages 217-272.
    19. Coate, Stephen & Morris, Stephen, 1995. "On the Form of Transfers in Special Interests," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(6), pages 1210-35, December.
    20. repec:pri:indrel:465 is not listed on IDEAS
    21. Andrea Vindigni, 2002. "Uncertainty and the Politics of Employment Protection," Working Papers 844, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
    22. MacLeod, W Bentley & Malcomson, James M & Gomme, Paul, 1994. "Labor Turnover and the Natural Rate of Unemployment: Efficiency Wage versus Frictional Unemployment," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 12(2), pages 276-315, April.
    23. Samuel Bentolila & Giuseppe Bertola, 1990. "Firing Costs and Labour Demand: How Bad is Eurosclerosis?," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 57(3), pages 381-402.
    24. Shapiro, Carl & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1984. "Equilibrium Unemployment as a Worker Discipline Device," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(3), pages 433-44, June.
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