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The Labor Market Effects of Introducing Unemployment Benefits in an Economy with High Informality

  • Mariano Bosch

    (Inter-American Development Bank)

  • Julen Esteban-Pretel

    (National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies)

Unemployment benefit systems are non-existent in many developing economies. Introducing such programs in these economies poses many challenges, which is partly due to the high level of informality in their labor markets. In this paper we study the consequences on the labor market of implementing an unemployment benefit system in economies with large informal sectors and high flows of workers between formality and informality. We build a search and matching model with endogenous destruction, on-the-job search and inter-sectoral flows, where agents in the economy decide optimally whether or not to formalize jobs. We calibrate the model for Mexico and show that the introduction of an unemployment subsidy system, where workers contribute during formal employment and collect benefits when they lose the job, can deliver an increase in formality in the economy while also producing small increases in unemployment. The exact impact of incorporating such benefits depends on the relative strength of two opposing effects: the generosity of the benefits and the level of the contributions that finance those benefits. We also show important policy complementarities with other interventions in the labor market. In particular, combining the unemployment benefit program with policies that reduce the cost of formality, such as lower firing costs or taxes, can produce decreases in informality and lower impacts on unemployment than when the subsidy program is applied in isolation.

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Paper provided by National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies in its series GRIPS Discussion Papers with number 12-20.

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Length: 37 pages
Date of creation: Feb 2013
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ngi:dpaper:12-20
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  1. Bosch, Mariano & Esteban-Pretel, Julen, 2012. "Job creation and job destruction in the presence of informal markets," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 98(2), pages 270-286.
  2. Christopher A. Pissarides & Barbara Petrongolo, 2001. "Looking into the Black Box: A Survey of the Matching Function," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 39(2), pages 390-431, June.
  3. 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.
  4. Margolis, David N. & Navarro, Lucas & Robalino, David A., 2012. "Unemployment Insurance, Job Search and Informal Employment," IZA Discussion Papers 6660, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  5. Almeida, Rita & Carneiro, Pedro, 2008. "Enforcement of labor regulation and firm size," Social Protection Discussion Papers 43675, The World Bank.
  6. Hagedorn, Marcus & Manovskii, Iourii, 2008. "The cyclical behavior of equilibrium unemployment and vacancies revisited," Working Paper Series 0853, European Central Bank.
  7. Pissarides, Christopher A, 1983. "Efficiency Aspects of the Financing of Unemployment Insurance and Other Government Expenditure," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 50(1), pages 57-69, January.
  8. Fugazza, Marco & Jacques, Jean-Francois, 2004. "Labor market institutions, taxation and the underground economy," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(1-2), pages 395-418, January.
  9. Costas Meghir & Renata Narita & Jean-Marc Robin, 2012. "Wages and Informality in Developing Countries," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1874, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  10. Robert Shimer, 2005. "The Cyclical Behavior of Equilibrium Unemployment and Vacancies," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(1), pages 25-49, March.
  11. Daron Acemoglu & Robert Shimer, 1999. "Efficient Unemployment Insurance," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(5), pages 893-928, October.
  12. Álvarez-Parra, Fernando & Sánchez, Juan M., 2009. "Unemployment insurance with a hidden labor market," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(7), pages 954-967, October.
  13. Carmen Pagés-Serra & Marco Stampini, 2007. "No Education, No Good Jobs? Evidence on the Relationship between Education and Labor Market Segmentation," Research Department Publications 4561, Inter-American Development Bank, Research Department.
  14. Mariano Bosch, 2006. "Job creation and job destruction in the presence of informal labour markets," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 19785, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  15. Cahuc, Pierre & Lehmann, Etienne, 2000. "Should unemployment benefits decrease with the unemployment spell?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 77(1), pages 135-153, July.
  16. Tito Boeri & Pietro Garibaldi, 2005. "Shadow Sorting," NBER Chapters, in: NBER International Seminar on Macroeconomics 2005, pages 125-163 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Ulyssea, Gabriel, 2010. "Regulation of entry, labor market institutions and the informal sector," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(1), pages 87-99, January.
  18. Fiess, Norbert M. & Fugazza, Marco & Maloney, William F., 2010. "Informal self-employment and macroeconomic fluctuations," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(2), pages 211-226, March.
  19. Antunes, Antonio R. & Cavalcanti, Tiago V. de V., 2007. "Start up costs, limited enforcement, and the hidden economy," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 51(1), pages 203-224, January.
  20. Albrecht, James & Navarro, Lucas & Vroman, Susan, 2006. "The Effects of Labor Market Policies in an Economy with an Informal Sector," IZA Discussion Papers 2141, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  21. Bosch, Mariano & Maloney, William F., 2008. "Cyclical Movements in Unemployment and Informality in Developing Countries," IZA Discussion Papers 3514, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  22. Zenou, Yves, 2008. "Job search and mobility in developing countries. Theory and policy implications," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 86(2), pages 336-355, June.
  23. Loayza, Norman V. & Rigolini, Jamele, 2006. "Informality trends and cycles," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4078, The World Bank.
  24. Costas Meghir & Renata Narita & Jean-Marc Robin, 2012. "Wages and Informality in Developing Countries," Working Papers 1018, Economic Growth Center, Yale University.
  25. Alan Finkelstein-Shapiro & Miguel Sarzosa, 2012. "Unemployement Protection for Informal Workers in Latin America and the Caribbean," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 80559, Inter-American Development Bank.
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