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Cyclical movements in unemployment and informality in developing countries

  • Bosch, Mariano
  • Maloney, William

This paper analyzes the cyclical properties of worker flows in Brazil and Mexico, two important developing countries with large unregulated or “informal” sectors. It generates three stylized facts that are critical to the accurate modeling of the sector and which suggest the need to rethink the approaches to date. First, the unemployment rate is countercyclical essentially because job separations of informal workers increase dramatically in recessions. Second, the share of formal employment is countercyclical because of the difficulty of finding formal jobs from inactivity, unemployment and other informal jobs during recessions rather than because of increased separation from formal jobs. Third, flows from formality into informality are not countercyclical, but, if anything, pro-cyclical. Together, these challenge the conventional wisdom that has guided the modeling the sector that informal workers are primarily those rationed out of the formal labor market. They also offer a new synthesis of the mechanics of the cyclical adjustment process. Finally, the paper offers estimates of the moments of worker flows series that are needed for calibration.

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Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 4648.

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Date of creation: 01 Jun 2008
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Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:4648
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  1. Jacques, Jean-François & Fugazza, Marco, 2004. "Labor market institutions, taxation and the underground economy," Economics Papers from University Paris Dauphine 123456789/1888, Paris Dauphine University.
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  6. Tito Boeri & Pietro Garibaldi, 2005. "Shadow Sorting," NBER Chapters, in: NBER International Seminar on Macroeconomics 2005, pages 125-163 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Aureo de Paula & Jose A. Scheinkman, 2007. "The Informal Sector," PIER Working Paper Archive 07-033, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania.
  8. James J. Heckman & Christopher J. Flinn, 1982. "New Methods for Analyzing Structural Models of Labor Force Dynamics," NBER Working Papers 0856, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Shigeru Fujita & Garey Ramey, 2007. "The cyclicality of separation and job finding rates," Working Papers 07-19, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
  10. Bosch, Mariano & Maloney, William, 2007. "Comparative analysis of labor market dynamics using markov processes : an application to informality," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4429, The World Bank.
  11. 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).
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  13. Maloney, William F., 2004. "Informality Revisited," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 32(7), pages 1159-1178, July.
  14. N Fiess & M Fugazza & WF Maloney, 2006. "Informal Labor Markets and Macroeconomic Fluctuations," Working Papers 2006_17, Business School - Economics, University of Glasgow.
  15. Bosch, Mariano & Goni Pacchioni, Edwin & Maloney, William F., 2007. "The Determinants of Rising Informality in Brazil: Evidence from Gross Worker Flows," IZA Discussion Papers 2970, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  16. Christopher J. Flinn & James J. Heckman, 1982. "Are Unemployment and Out of the Labor Force Behaviorally Distinct Labor Force States?," NBER Working Papers 0979, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Mariano Bosch & William Maloney, 2006. "Gross worker flows in the presence of informal labor markets. The Mexican experience 1987-2002," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 19798, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  18. McKenzie, David J, 2004. "Aggregate Shocks and Urban Labor Market Responses: Evidence from Argentina's Financial Crisis," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 52(4), pages 719-58, July.
  19. Michael W. Elsby & Ryan Michaels & Gary Solon, 2007. "The Ins and Outs of Cyclical Unemployment," NBER Working Papers 12853, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  21. Kolm, Ann-Sofie & Larsen, Birthe, 2006. "Does Tax Evasion Affect Unemployment and Educational Choice?," Working Papers 12-2003, Copenhagen Business School, Department of Economics.
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  23. Albrecht, James & Navarro, Lucas & Vroman, Susan, 2006. "The Effects of Labor Market Policies in an Economy with an Informal Sector," IZA Discussion Papers 2141, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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  25. Maloney, William F, 1999. "Does Informality Imply Segmentation in Urban Labor Markets? Evidence from Sectoral Transitions in Mexico," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 13(2), pages 275-302, May.
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  35. repec:oup:restud:v:61:y:1994:i:3:p:397-415 is not listed on IDEAS
  36. Baker, Michael, 1992. "Unemployment Duration: Compositional Effects and Cyclical Variability," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(1), pages 313-21, March.
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  38. Jovanovic, Boyan, 1982. "Selection and the Evolution of Industry," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(3), pages 649-70, May.
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