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Is the Formal Sector too Large or too Small? A Reexamination of Minimum Wages in Developing Countries


  • Frédéric Gavrel

    (University of Caen Basse-Normandie, France - CREM-CNRS)


This paper reexamines the issue of the division of the labor force between the two sub-markets (formal and informal) of a developing economy. The formal sector is represented by a matching model with vertically differentiated workers. Assuming that firms hire their best applicants, we state that the formal sector is too small in terms of its labor force but too large in terms of job creation. Next we show that introducing a minimum wage increases the size of the formal sector with respect both to its labor force and to job creation. In accordance with the well-known paradox of Harris and Todaro, the enlargement of the formal market is accompanied by a rise in unemployment. However, when associated with a tax on job creation, the introduction of a minimum wage in the formal sector improves the efficiency of the labor market by making the formal sector more attractive to workers.

Suggested Citation

  • Frédéric Gavrel, 2011. "Is the Formal Sector too Large or too Small? A Reexamination of Minimum Wages in Developing Countries," Economics Working Paper Archive (University of Rennes 1 & University of Caen) 201108, Center for Research in Economics and Management (CREM), University of Rennes 1, University of Caen and CNRS.
  • Handle: RePEc:tut:cremwp:201108

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Holmlund, Bertil, 1998. " Unemployment Insurance in Theory and Practice," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 100(1), pages 113-141, March.
    2. Gavrel, Frédéric, 2012. "On the inefficiency of matching models of unemployment with heterogeneous workers and jobs when firms rank their applicants," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 56(8), pages 1746-1758.
    3. 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.
    4. Gavrel, Frédéric, 2009. "Technical skill bias as a response of firms to unemployment: A matching model with applicant ranking and endogenous skill requirements," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(3), pages 304-310, June.
    5. Albrecht, James W. & Gautier, Pieter A. & Vroman, Susan B., 2003. "Matching with multiple applications," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 78(1), pages 67-70, January.
    6. 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.
    7. Gary Fields & Ravi Kanbur, 2007. "Minimum wages and poverty with income-sharing," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 5(2), pages 135-147, August.
    8. Gavrel, Frédéric, 2011. "On the efficiency of participation with vertically differentiated workers," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 112(1), pages 100-102, July.
    9. Albrecht, James & Navarro, Lucas & Vroman, Susan, 2010. "Efficiency in a search and matching model with endogenous participation," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 106(1), pages 48-50, January.
    10. Moen, Espen R, 1999. "Education, Ranking, and Competition for Jobs," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 17(4), pages 694-723, October.
    11. Zenou, Yves, 2008. "Job search and mobility in developing countries. Theory and policy implications," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 86(2), pages 336-355, June.
    12. James Albrecht, Pieter Gautier, & Susan Vroman, 2003. "Matching with Multiple Applications: The Limiting Case," Working Papers gueconwpa~03-03-25, Georgetown University, Department of Economics.
    13. Margaret Stevens, 2007. "New Microfoundations For The Aggregate Matching Function," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 48(3), pages 847-868, August.
    14. Harris, John R & Todaro, Michael P, 1970. "Migration, Unemployment & Development: A Two-Sector Analysis," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 60(1), pages 126-142, March.
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    More about this item


    Formal and informal labor markets; applicant ranking; efficiency; minimum wage;

    JEL classification:

    • O17 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Formal and Informal Sectors; Shadow Economy; Institutional Arrangements
    • J64 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Unemployment: Models, Duration, Incidence, and Job Search
    • J68 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Public Policy

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