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

Author

Listed:
  • Mariano Bosch

    (Inter-American Development Bank)

  • Julen Esteban-Pretel

    (National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies)

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Mariano Bosch & Julen Esteban-Pretel, 2013. "The Labor Market Effects of Introducing Unemployment Benefits in an Economy with High Informality," GRIPS Discussion Papers 12-20, National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies.
  • Handle: RePEc:ngi:dpaper:12-20
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
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    Cited by:

    1. Alonso-Ortiz, Jorge & Leal Ordonez, Julio, 2013. "The Elasticity of Informality to Taxes and Transfers," MPRA Paper 49568, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Traoré, Jean Abel & Ouedraogo, Idrissa Mohamed, 2015. "Public policies promoting the informal economy: effects on incomes, employment and growth in Burkina Faso," MPRA Paper 74760, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Mesén Vargas, Juliana & Van der Linden, Bruno, 2017. "Is There Always a Trade-off between Insurance and Incentives? The Case of Unemployment with Subsistence Constraints," IZA Discussion Papers 11034, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    4. Afonso, Óscar, 2016. "Effects of labour-market institutions on employment, wages, R&D intensity and growth in 27 OECD countries: From theory to practice," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 48-62.
    5. Gimpelson, Vladimir & Kapeliushnikov, Rostislav, 2014. "Between Light and Shadow: Informality in the Russian Labour Market," IZA Discussion Papers 8279, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J64 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Unemployment: Models, Duration, Incidence, and Job Search
    • J65 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Unemployment Insurance; Severance Pay; Plant Closings
    • H26 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Tax Evasion and Avoidance
    • O17 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Formal and Informal Sectors; Shadow Economy; Institutional Arrangements

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