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Returns to Tenure or Seniority?



This study documents two empirical regularities, using data for Denmark and Portugal. First, workers who are hired last, are the first to leave the firm (Last In, First Out; LIFO). Second, workers’ wages rise with seniority (= a worker’s tenure relative to the tenure of her colleagues). We seek to explain these regularities by developing a dynamic model of the firm with stochastic product demand and hiring cost (= irreversible specific investments). There is wage bargaining between a worker and its firm. Separations (quits or layoffs) obey the LIFO rule and bargaining is efficient (a zero surplus at the moment of separation). The LIFO rule provides a stronger bargaining position for senior workers, leading to a return to seniority in wages. Efficiency in hiring requires the workers’ bargaining power to be in line with their share in the cost of specific investment. Then, the LIFO rule is a way to protect their property right on the specific investment. We consider the effects of Employment Protection Legislation and risk aversion.

Suggested Citation

  • Sebastian Buhai & Miguel Portela & Coen Teulings & Aico van Vuuren, 2008. "Returns to Tenure or Seniority?," NIPE Working Papers 02/2008, NIPE - Universidade do Minho.
  • Handle: RePEc:nip:nipewp:02/2008

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. I. Sebastian Buhai & Coen N. Teulings, 2014. "Tenure Profiles and Efficient Separation in a Stochastic Productivity Model," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 32(2), pages 245-258, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Lans Bovenberg & Coen N. Teulings, 2007. "Rhineland exit?," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 07-101/3, Tinbergen Institute.
    2. Böckerman, Petri & Skedinger, Per & Uusitalo, Roope, 2015. "Seniority rules, worker mobility and wages: Evidence from multi-country linked employer-employee data," MPRA Paper 68581, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Elena Cottini & Paolo Ghinetti, 2012. "Working Conditions, Lifestyles and Health," Economics Working Papers 2012-28, Department of Economics and Business Economics, Aarhus University.
    4. Anja Deelen, 2012. "Wage-Tenure Profiles and Mobility," De Economist, Springer, vol. 160(2), pages 141-155, June.
    5. A. Bovenberg & Coen Teulings, 2009. "Rhineland exit?," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 16(5), pages 710-726, October.
    6. Anja Deelen, 2011. "Wage-Tenure Profiles and Mobility," CPB Discussion Paper 198, CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis.
    7. Andy Snell & Pedro Martins & Heiko Stüber & Jonathan P. Thomas, 2018. "Bias in Returns to Tenure When Firm Wages and Employment Comove: A Quantitative Assessment and Solution," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 36(1), pages 47-74.
    8. Gu, Grace Weishi & Malik, Samreen & Pozzoli, Dario & Rocha, Vera, 2016. "Trade Induced Skill Upgrading: Lessons from the Danish and Portuguese Experiences," IZA Discussion Papers 10035, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    9. Fernando Alexandre & Miguel Portela & Carla Sá, 2008. "Admission conditions and graduates' employability," NIPE Working Papers 16/2008, NIPE - Universidade do Minho.
    10. Christopher Ferrall & Kjell G. Salvanes & Erik Ø. Sørensen, 2009. "Wages And Seniority When Coworkers Matter: Estimating A Joint Production Economy Using Norwegian Administrative Data," Working Papers 1200, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
    11. Coen Teulings, 2010. "How to Share Our Risks Efficiently? Principles for Optimal Social Insurance and Pension Provision," De Economist, Springer, vol. 158(1), pages 1-21, April.
    12. von Below, David & Thoursie, Peter Skogman, 2010. "Last in, first out?: Estimating the effect of seniority rules in Sweden," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(6), pages 987-997, December.

    More about this item


    irreversible investment; efficient bargaining; seniority; LIFO; matched employer-employee data; EPL.;

    JEL classification:

    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • J41 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Labor Contracts
    • J63 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Turnover; Vacancies; Layoffs

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