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The impact of labor market regulations


  • Squire, Lyn
  • Suthiwart-Narueput, Sethaput


The authors investigate the impact of labor market regulations in settings where compliance is incomplete. They review some stylized facts about labor market behavior, present an analytical model that may explain such behavior, and provide a checklist for assessing the distortionary impact of a regulation such as the minimum wage. They take as their starting point the limited evidence about the distortionary effects of such regulations and argue that there may be natural limits on the efficiency losses engendered by labor market regulations. First, the regulations may not be binding at market equilibrium. For example, minimum wages may be set so low that they are ineffective. Second, even if they are binding, the relevant elasticities of supply and demand may be so low that the regulations have little impact on efficiency. Third, even if the regulations are binding and elasticities are sizable, compliance may be low. The authors argue that the likelihood of compliance will be greatest when the regulations are binding and the relevant elasticities are sizable. That is, if the distortionary costs of regulations are not rendered insignificant by the first two reasons, then the returns to noncompliance will be high and, other things being equal, employers will evade or avoid the regulations, thereby minimizing the imact on efficiency. The argument rests on profit maximization subject to a hard budget constraint. Public enterprises, which are not concerned only with profit maximization and often have softer budget constraints than the private sector, may be more willing to conform to profit-reducing regulations, but in this case the authors argue that compliance may reduce already-existing efficiency losses.

Suggested Citation

  • Squire, Lyn & Suthiwart-Narueput, Sethaput, 1995. "The impact of labor market regulations," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1418, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:1418

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Alida Castillo Freeman & Richard B. Freeman, 1991. "Minimum Wages in Puerto Rico: Textbook Case of a Wage Floor?," NBER Working Papers 3759, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Gelb, A & Knight, John B & Sabot, R H, 1991. "Public Sector Employment, Rent Seeking and Economic Growth," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 101(408), pages 1186-1199, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Rémi Bazillier & Nicolas Sirven, 2006. "Les normes fondamentales du travail contribuent-elles à réduire les inégalités ?," Revue Française d'Économie, Programme National Persée, vol. 21(2), pages 111-146.
    2. César Calderón & Alberto Chong & Rodrigo Valdés, 2004. "Normativa del mercado laboral y desigualdad del ingreso: elementos de juicio de un grupo de países," Research Department Publications 4376, Inter-American Development Bank, Research Department.
    3. Alberto Chong & Florencio Lopez-de-Silanes, 2004. "Privatización en México," Research Department Publications 4374, Inter-American Development Bank, Research Department.
    4. Derk Bienen, 2002. "Mindestlohnreformen in Südamerika – ökonomische Rechtfertigung und praktische Umsetzung," Ibero America Institute for Econ. Research (IAI) Discussion Papers 090, Ibero-America Institute for Economic Research.
    5. César Calderón & Alberto Chong & Rodrigo O. Valdés, 2005. "Labor Market Regulations and Income Inequality: Evidence for a Panel of Countries," Central Banking, Analysis, and Economic Policies Book Series,in: Jorge Restrepo & Andrea Tokman R. & Norman Loayza (Series Editor) & Klaus Schmidt-Hebbel (Series Edi (ed.), Labor Markets and Institutions, edition 1, volume 8, chapter 7, pages 221-279 Central Bank of Chile.
    6. Dinkelman, Taryn & Ranchhod, Vimal, 2012. "Evidence on the impact of minimum wage laws in an informal sector: Domestic workers in South Africa," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 99(1), pages 27-45.
    7. Jan J. Rutkowski & Stefano Scarpetta, 2005. "Enhancing Job Opportunities : Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 7408, March.
    8. Yana van der Meulen Rodgers & Gunseli Berik, 2006. "Asia's Race to Capture Post-MFA Markets: A Snapshot of Labor Standards, Compliance, and Impacts on Competitiveness," Working Paper Series, Department of Economics, University of Utah 2006_02, University of Utah, Department of Economics.
    9. Alan B. Krueger, 1996. "Observations on International Labor Standards and Trade," NBER Working Papers 5632, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Weller, Jürgen, 2007. "La flexibilidad del mercado de trabajo en América Latina y el Caribe. Aspectos del debate, alguna evidencia y políticas," Macroeconomía del Desarrollo 61, Naciones Unidas Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe (CEPAL).
    11. Freeman, Richard B., 2010. "Labor Regulations, Unions, and Social Protection in Developing Countries," Handbook of Development Economics, Elsevier.
    12. Calderon, Cesar & Chong, Alberto & Leon, Gianmarco, 2007. "Institutional enforcement, labor-market rigidities, and economic performance," Emerging Markets Review, Elsevier, vol. 8(1), pages 38-49, March.
    13. repec:eee:labchp:v:3:y:1999:i:pb:p:2859-2939 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. Drusilla Brown & Alan Deardorff & Robert Stern, 1998. "Trade and Labor Standards," Open Economies Review, Springer, vol. 9(2), pages 171-194, April.
    15. Alvaro Forteza & Martín Rama, 2000. "Labor Market "Rigidity" and the Success of Economic Reforms Across more than One Hundred Countries," Documentos de Trabajo (working papers) 0600, Department of Economics - dECON.
    16. Dessing, Maryke, 2004. "Implications for minimum-wage policies of an S-shaped labor-supply curve," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 53(4), pages 543-568, April.


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