Labour Market Institutions and the Effectiveness of Tax and Benefit Policies in Enchancing Employment: A General Equilibrium Analysis
The paper aims to shed light on the relationships between labour market institutions with respect to wage formation and the effectiveness of economic and labour market policies in enhancing employment and overall economic performance. We evaluate tax and benefit policies under four alternative specifications of wage formation : fixed, market determined, and bargained wages. In the latter, we also distinguish between the short- and long-run effects, and between uncoordinated and coordinated (nation-wide) bargaining. To this end, we build a computable general equilibrium model which is calibrated using data on the Finnish economy and labour market, distinguishing workers of three skill categories by the level of their education. Evaluating policies under various possible labour market institutions, the paper also seeks relevance in a wider EU perspective. Overall, the model simulations show that labour market institutions with respect to wage formation influence to a large extent the effectiveness of many policies aiming at enhancing employment. When wages are allowed to react, policies expanding the demand for labour, which work well under fixed wages, turn out to be quite inefficient in the short run. The reverse emerges with supply side policies such as reducing benefits so that wage reactions reinforce the positive effects of these policies. The reduction of marginal taxes interacts with labour market institutions in quite a sensitive way. Under wage bargaining, tax reductions should be channelled to low-income earners, while the reverse holds under flexible wage formation. Policies directed at raising labour demand for a targeted group, typically the low skilled, are able, on the other hand, to lower unemployment amongst this group of workers also under coordinated wage bargaining. However, if the group concerned enters in a new wage bargaining round unilaterally, the effect of this policy can even be quite negative in terms of its impact on employment due to the rise of compensatory wage claims through the wage-wage links. We also consider a hypothetical, fully flexible labour market and find the extent of the widening of the wage distribution, but also the magnitude of clear economic gains, related to a low rate of unemployment reached through the assumed wage adjustment process. The most effective policy in terms of employment, labour supply and unemployment is the curtailment of social security benefits while out of work. Also a neutral policy of compensating the cut in unemployment benefits by a tax reduction leads, under bargaining, to an expansion in the economy. The results call for coordination in tax and benefit policy measures, so that incentives to work and to stay out of work are not created simultaneously
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