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Labor Market Policy: A Comparative View on the Costs and Benefits of Labor Market Flexibility

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  • Kahn, Lawrence M.

    () (Cornell University)

Abstract

I review theories and evidence on wage-setting institutions and labor market policies in an international comparative context. These include collective bargaining, minimum wages, employment protection laws, unemployment insurance (UI), mandated parental leave, and active labor market policies (ALMPs). Since it is unlikely that an unregulated private sector would provide the income insurance these institutions do, these policies may enhance economic efficiency. However, to the extent that unemployment or resource misallocation results from such measures, these efficiency gains may be offset. Overall, Scandinavia and Central Europe follow distinctively more interventionist policies than the English speaking countries in the Northern Hemisphere. Possible explanations for such differences include vulnerability to external market forces and ethnic homogeneity. I then review evidence on the impacts of these policies and institutions. While the interventionist model appears to cause lower levels of wage inequality and high levels of job security to incumbent workers, it also in some cases leads to the relegation of new entrants (disproportionately women, youth and immigrants) as well as the less skilled to temporary jobs or unemployment. Making labor markets more flexible could bring these groups into the regular labor market to a greater extent, at the expense of higher levels of economic insecurity for incumbents and higher levels of wage inequality. The Danish model of loosening employment protections while providing relatively generous UI benefits with strict job search requirements holds out the possibility of reducing barriers for new entrants and the less skilled while maintaining some level of income insurance.

Suggested Citation

  • Kahn, Lawrence M., 2010. "Labor Market Policy: A Comparative View on the Costs and Benefits of Labor Market Flexibility," IZA Discussion Papers 5100, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp5100
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    Cited by:

    1. Kocher, Martin G. & Luhan, Wolfgang J. & Sutter, Matthias, 2012. "Testing a forgotten aspect of Akerlof’s gift exchange hypothesis: Relational contracts with individual and uniform wages," Discussion Papers in Economics 12816, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
    2. Westling, Tatu, 2011. "Incentive pay and gender gaps in the Nordic countries," MPRA Paper 33083, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Joanna Osiñska, 2013. "Postawy wzglêdem euro i ich determinanty– przegl¹d badañ i literatury przedmiotu," Working Papers 70, Institute of Statistics and Demography, Warsaw School of Economics.
    4. Kassinis, George I. & Stavrou, Eleni T., 2013. "Non-standard work arrangements and national context," European Management Journal, Elsevier, vol. 31(5), pages 464-477.
    5. Latif, Ehsan, 2014. "The impact of recession on drinking and smoking behaviours in Canada," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 42(C), pages 43-56.
    6. Anna Matysiak & Dorota Węziak-Białowolska, 2016. "Country-Specific Conditions for Work and Family Reconciliation: An Attempt at Quantification," European Journal of Population, Springer;European Association for Population Studies, vol. 32(4), pages 475-510, October.
    7. Iga Magda & Monika Potoczna, 2014. "Does flexible employment pay? European evidence on the wage perspectives of female workers," IBS Working Papers 3/2014, Instytut Badan Strukturalnych.
    8. Randall S. Jones & Satoshi Urasawa, 2012. "Promoting Social Cohesion in Korea," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 963, OECD Publishing.
    9. Martin G. Kocher & Wolfgang J. Luhan & Matthias Sutter, 2012. "Testing a forgotten aspect of Akerlof�s gift exchange hypothesis: Relational contracts with individual and uniform wages," Working Papers 2012-02, Faculty of Economics and Statistics, University of Innsbruck.

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    Keywords

    labor market flexibility;

    JEL classification:

    • J68 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Public Policy

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