Social Security and the search behaviour of workers approaching retirement
This paper explores the links between unemployment, retirement and their associated public insurance programs. It is a contribution to a growing body of literature focused on a better understanding of the labor behavior of advanced-age workers, which has gained importance as the pension crisis looms. It also contributes to the literature of optimal unemployment insurance by exploring the interaction of unemployment benefits and retirement pensions. The analysis combines the development of a new theoretical model and a detailed exploration of the empirical regularities using the Spanish Muestra Continua de Vidas Laborales (MCVL) dataset. The model is an extension of the standard search model, designed to reproduce the non-stationary environment faced by workers of advanced ages (in the age range 50/65). Via calibrated simulations we show that the basic empirical re-employment and retirement patterns can be considered as rational responses to both the labor market conditions and the institutional incentives. Generous Unemployment Benefits (for durations of up to two years) together with very significant early retirement penalties, make optimal to stay unemployed without searching for large groups of unemployed workers. This moral hazard problem can be substantially alleviated through institutional reform. We explore several potential reforms and find that changing the details of early retirement pensions seems more promising than changing the Unemployment Benefit system.
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