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Does Formal Work Pay? The Role of Labor Taxation and Social Benefit Design in the New EU Member States

  • Koettl, Johannes

    ()

    (World Bank)

  • Weber, Michael

    ()

    (World Bank)

The analysis presented in this paper defines three different synthetic measurements of disincentives for formal work: two standard measurements, namely the tax wedge and the marginal effective tax rate (METR); and a new, innovative measurement called formalization tax rate (FTR). The novelty of the latter is that it measures disincentives stemming not only from labor taxation, but also from benefit withdrawal due to formalization. A descriptive analysis across a large number of OECD and Eastern European countries reveals that the disincentives for formal work – when measured through the FTR – are especially high for low-wage earners. This suggests that formal work might not pay in this segment of the labor market, in particular for the so-called mini-jobs and midi-jobs (low paying part-time work). Another novelty of the paper is its empirical approach. Using EU-SILC 2008 data and OECD Tax and Benefit data for six Eastern European countries (Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Poland, and Slovakia), we match disincentives for formal work to individual observations in a large data set. Applying a probit regression, the analysis finds a significant positive correlation between FTR or METR and the incidence of being informal. In other words, controlling for individual and job characteristics, the higher the FTR or the METR that individuals are facing is, the more likely they are to work informally. The tax wedge, on the other hand, yields a negative correlation. This indicates that the tax wedge is not sufficiently capturing disincentives for formal work. We also conclude that in cross-country analysis, it might be more useful to use the tax wedge that applies to low wage earners as opposed to average wage earners.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 6313.

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Length: 35 pages
Date of creation: Jan 2012
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in: Research in Labor Economics, Vol. 34, 2012
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp6313
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  1. Steven J. Davis & Magnus Henrekson, 2004. "Tax Effects on Work Activity, Industry Mix and Shadow Economy Size: Evidence from Rich-Country Comparisons," NBER Working Papers 10509, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Andrea Bassanini & Romain Duval, 2006. "Employment Patterns in OECD Countries: Reassessing the Role of Policies and Institutions," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 486, OECD Publishing.
  3. Perotti, Valeria & Sánchez Puerta, Maria Laura, 2009. "Personal Opinions about the Social Security System and Informal Employment : Evidence from Bulgaria," Social Protection Discussion Papers 89563, The World Bank.
  4. Benno Torgler, 2003. "Tax Morale in Transition Countries," Working papers 2003/01, Faculty of Business and Economics - University of Basel.
  5. Hazans, Mihails, 2011. "Informal Workers across Europe: Evidence from 30 Countries," IZA Discussion Papers 5871, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  6. Benno Torgler, 2003. "Tax Morale and Institutions," CREMA Working Paper Series 2003-09, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).
  7. Herwig Immervoll & Mark Pearson, 2009. "A Good Time for Making Work Pay? Taking Stock of In-Work Benefits and Related Measures across the OECD," OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers 81, OECD Publishing.
  8. 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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