IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Cyclical Informality and Unemployment


  • Mariano Bosch

    (Departamento de Fundamentos del Analisis Economico, Universidad de Alicante)

  • Julen Esteban-Pretel

    (Faculty of Economics, University of Tokyo)


The proportion of informal or unprotected workers in developing countries is large. In developing economies, the fraction of informal workers can be as high as 70% of total employment. For economies with significant informal sectors, business cycle fluctuations and labor market policy interventions can have important effects on the unemployment rate, and also produce large reallocations of workers between "regulated" and "unregulated" jobs. In this paper, we report the main cyclical patterns of one such labor market: Brazil. We then use the empirical regularities found in the data to build, calibrate, and simulate a two-sector search and matching labor market model, in which firms have the choice of hiring workers formally or informally. We find that our model, built in the spirit of traditional search and matching models, can explain well most of the cyclical properties found in the data. We also show that government policies that decrease the cost of formal jobs, or increase the cost of informality, raise the share of formal employment while reducing unemployment.

Suggested Citation

  • Mariano Bosch & Julen Esteban-Pretel, 2009. "Cyclical Informality and Unemployment," CIRJE F-Series CIRJE-F-613, CIRJE, Faculty of Economics, University of Tokyo.
  • Handle: RePEc:tky:fseres:2009cf613

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Simeon Djankov & Rafael La Porta & Florencio Lopez-de-Silanes & Andrei Shleifer, 2002. "The Regulation of Entry," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(1), pages 1-37.
    2. Mortensen, Dale & Pissarides, Christopher, 2011. "Job Creation and Job Destruction in the Theory of Unemployment," Economic Policy, Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, vol. 1, pages 1-19.
    3. Almeida, Rita K. & Carneiro, Pedro, 2005. "Enforcement of Regulation, Informal Labor and Firm Performance," IZA Discussion Papers 1759, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    4. Christopher A. Pissarides & Barbara Petrongolo, 2001. "Looking into the Black Box: A Survey of the Matching Function," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 39(2), pages 390-431, June.
    5. Maxim Bouev, 2002. "Official Regulations and the Shadow Economy: A Labour Market Approach," William Davidson Institute Working Papers Series 524, William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan.
    6. Henley, Andrew & Arabsheibani, Reza & Carneiro, Francisco G., 2006. "On Defining and Measuring the Informal Sector," IZA Discussion Papers 2473, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    8. Kolm, Ann-Sofie & Larsen, Birthe, 2003. "Does Tax Evation Affect Unemployment and Educational Choice?," Working Paper Series 2003:22, Uppsala University, Department of Economics.
    9. 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.
    10. Ch. Pissarides., 2011. "The Unemployment Volatility Puzzle: Is Wage Stickiness the Answer?," VOPROSY ECONOMIKI, N.P. Redaktsiya zhurnala "Voprosy Economiki", vol. 1.
    11. Kolm, Ann-Sofie & Larsen, Birthe, 2001. "Moral Costs, The Informal Sector And Unemployment," Working Papers 01-2001, Copenhagen Business School, Department of Economics.
    12. Jasper Hoek, 2002. "Labor Market Institutions and Restructuring: Evidence from Regulated and Unregulated Labor Markets in Brazil," William Davidson Institute Working Papers Series 484, William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan.
    13. repec:hrv:faseco:30747190 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. Robert Shimer, 2005. "The Cyclical Behavior of Equilibrium Unemployment and Vacancies," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(1), pages 25-49, March.
    15. Robert Shimer, 2012. "Reassessing the Ins and Outs of Unemployment," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 15(2), pages 127-148, April.
    16. Christiano, Lawrence J, 1990. "Solving the Stochastic Growth Model by Linear-Quadratic Approximation and by Value-Function Iteration," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 8(1), pages 23-26, January.
    17. Christopher A. Pissarides, 2000. "Equilibrium Unemployment Theory, 2nd Edition," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262161877, January.
    18. Antunes, Antonio R. & Cavalcanti, Tiago V. de V., 2007. "Start up costs, limited enforcement, and the hidden economy," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 51(1), pages 203-224, January.
    19. Dominik H. Enste & Friedrich Schneider, 2000. "Shadow Economies: Size, Causes, and Consequences," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 38(1), pages 77-114, March.
    20. Fabio Kanczuk, 2004. "Real Interest Rates and Brazilian Business Cycles," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 7(2), pages 436-455, April.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Alonso Ortiz, Jorge & Leal Ordóñez, Julio C., 2011. "Taxes, Transfers and the Distribution of Employment in Mexico," MPRA Paper 32014, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Giuseppe Ciccarone & Francesco Giuli, 2012. "Underground labor, search frictions and macroeconomic fluctuations," Departmental Working Papers of Economics - University 'Roma Tre' 0159, Department of Economics - University Roma Tre.
    3. Lisi GAETANO, 2010. "The Unemployment Volatility Puzzle: The Role Of The Underground Economy," Journal of Applied Economic Sciences, Spiru Haret University, Faculty of Financial Management and Accounting Craiova, vol. 5(2(12)/Sum), pages 59-69.
    4. Alan Finkelstein-Shapiro & Miguel Sarzosa, 2012. "Unemployement Protection for Informal Workers in Latin America and the Caribbean," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 4542, Inter-American Development Bank.
    5. Margolis, David N. & Navarro, Lucas & Robalino, David A., 2012. "Unemployment Insurance, Job Search and Informal Employment," IZA Discussion Papers 6660, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    6. Alonso-Ortiz, Jorge & Leal Ordonez, Julio, 2013. "The Elasticity of Informality to Taxes and Transfers," MPRA Paper 49568, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. Gaetano Lisi & Maurizio Pugno, 2015. "A matching model of endogenous growth and underground firms," International Journal of Economic Theory, The International Society for Economic Theory, vol. 11(4), pages 347-369, December.
    8. Lisi, Gaetano, 2011. "Matching Models of Equilibrium Unemployment: An Overview," MPRA Paper 30191, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    9. World Bank & International Finance Corporation, "undated". "Doing Business in the East African Community 2011," World Bank Other Operational Studies 27390, The World Bank.

    More about this item

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:tky:fseres:2009cf613. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (CIRJE administrative office). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.