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Escaping the Unemployment Trap ; The Case of East Germany

  • Christian Merkl
  • Dennis J. Snower

This paper addresses the question of why prolonged regional unemployment differentials tend to persist even after their proximate causes have been reversed (e.g., after wages in the high-unemployment regions have fallen relative to those in the low-unemployment regions). We suggest that the longer people are unemployed, the greater is the likelihood of falling into a low-productivity "trap," through the attrition of skills and work habits. We develop and calibrate a model along these lines for East Germany and examine the effectiveness of three employment policies in this context: (i) a weakening of workers’ position in wage negotiations due to a drop in the replacement rate or firing costs, leading to a fall in wages, (ii) hiring subsidies, and (iii) training subsidies. We show that the employment effects of these policies depend crucially on whether low-productivity traps are present.

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Paper provided by Kiel Institute for the World Economy in its series Kiel Working Papers with number 1309.

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Length: 27 pages
Date of creation: Jan 2007
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:kie:kieliw:1309
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  1. Lechner, Michael & Wunsch, Conny, 2006. "Active Labour Market Policy in East Germany: Waiting for the Economy to Take Off," CEPR Discussion Papers 5924, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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  3. Snower, Dennis J. & Merkl, Christian, 2006. "The Caring Hand that Cripples: The East German Labor Market After Reunification (Detailed Version)," IZA Discussion Papers 2066, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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  19. J. Paul Elhorst, 2003. "The Mystery of Regional Unemployment Differentials: Theoretical and Empirical Explanations," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 17(5), pages 709-748, December.
  20. Michael C. Burda & Jennifer Hunt, 2001. "From Reunification to Economic Integration: Productivity and the Labor Market in Eastern Germany," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 32(2), pages 1-92.
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  29. Lechner, Michael & Miquel, Ruth & Wunsch, Conny, 2005. "The curse and blessing of training the unemployed in a changing economy : the case of East Germany after unification," IAB Discussion Paper 200514, Institut für Arbeitsmarkt- und Berufsforschung (IAB), Nürnberg [Institute for Employment Research, Nuremberg, Germany].
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