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Self Employment in Developing Countries: a Search-Equilibrium Approach

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  • Renata Narita

    ()

Abstract

Self employment comprises around thirty percent of the workforce in Latin America. Most self employed evade payroll taxes, have low education, and run small businesses requiring low skills. I develop and estimate a life cycle search model where workers can be wage earners in the formal or informal sector, self employed or unemployed. Firms in the formal sector pay payroll and severance taxes, and in the informal sector, they can be fined. The estimated model (i) reproduces well the composition of workers over the life cycle as observed in Brazilian Labour Force data, and (ii) shows that the job value of the self employed is similar to that of informal wage earners. The model is used as a tool to evaluate the welfare impact of labour market policies, where self employment may be an option. When simulating an increase in the cost of informality by ten percent, results showed (i) small impact on employment composition and informality; (ii) significant cost pass-through to wages in the informal sector, meaning a reduction in the lowest wages in the economy, hence higher wage inequality. On the other hand, (iii) it led to substantial improvement in the welfare of formal firms and of all workers. These results prove that taking into account labour market frictions is important in welfare analyses of policies in multisectoral labour markets. As simulations which increase the cost of informality suggest, stricter enforcement of labour regulations (at least to a certain degree) can be a way towards efficient labor markets.

Suggested Citation

  • Renata Narita, 2013. "Self Employment in Developing Countries: a Search-Equilibrium Approach," Working Papers, Department of Economics 2013_21, University of São Paulo (FEA-USP).
  • Handle: RePEc:spa:wpaper:2013wpecon21
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Holtz-Eakin, Douglas & Joulfaian, David & Rosen, Harvey S, 1994. "Sticking It Out: Entrepreneurial Survival and Liquidity Constraints," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(1), pages 53-75, February.
    2. Bontemps, Christian & Robin, Jean-Marc & van den Berg, Gerard J, 2000. "Equilibrium Search with Continuous Productivity Dispersion: Theory and Nonparametric Estimation," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 41(2), pages 305-358, May.
    3. James Albrecht & Lucas Navarro & Susan Vroman, 2009. "The Effects of Labour Market Policies in an Economy with an Informal Sector," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 119(539), pages 1105-1129, July.
    4. Rita Almeida & Pedro Carneiro, Renata Narita, 2013. "Producing Higher Quality Jobs: Enforcement of Mandated Benefits across Brazilian Cities between 1996-2007," Working Papers, Department of Economics 2013_22, University of São Paulo (FEA-USP).
    5. Erik Hurst & Annamaria Lusardi, 2004. "Liquidity Constraints, Household Wealth, and Entrepreneurship," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(2), pages 319-347, April.
    6. Erik Hurst & Geng Li & Benjamin Pugsley, 2014. "Are Household Surveys Like Tax Forms? Evidence from Income Underreporting of the Self-Employed," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 96(1), pages 19-33, March.
    7. Kenneth Burdett & Carlos Carrillo‐Tudela & Melvyn G. Coles, 2011. "Human Capital Accumulation And Labor Market Equilibrium," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 52(3), pages 657-677, August.
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    9. Christopher A. Pissarides, 2000. "Equilibrium Unemployment Theory, 2nd Edition," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262161877, March.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Self employment; Occupational choice; Informal Sector; Job Search; Labour market welfare;

    JEL classification:

    • J30 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - General
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • O17 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Formal and Informal Sectors; Shadow Economy; Institutional Arrangements
    • J42 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Monopsony; Segmented Labor Markets
    • J60 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - General

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