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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
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:4648
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  1. Bosch, Mariano & Maloney, William F., 2007. "Comparative Analysis of Labor Market Dynamics Using Markov Processes: An Application to Informality," IZA Discussion Papers 3038, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Guillermo E. Perry & William F. Maloney & Omar S. Arias & Pablo Fajnzylber & Andrew D. Mason & Jaime Saavedra-Chanduvi, 2007. "Informality : Exit and Exclusion," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 6730.
  3. Mariano Bosch & William Maloney, 2006. "Gross Worker Flows in the Presence of Informal Labor Markets. The Mexican Experience 1987-2002," CEP Discussion Papers dp0753, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  4. Fugazza, Marco & Jacques, Jean-Francois, 2004. "Labor market institutions, taxation and the underground economy," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(1-2), pages 395-418, January.
  5. 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.
  6. Henley, Andrew & Arabsheibani, G. Reza & Carneiro, Francisco G., 2006. "On defining and measuring the informal sector," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3866, The World Bank.
  7. Petrongolo, Barbara & Pissarides, Christopher, 2008. "The Ins and Outs of European Unemployment," CEPR Discussion Papers 6681, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  8. 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.
  9. Christopher J. Flinn & James J. Heckman, 1982. "Models for the Analysis of Labor Force Dynamics," NBER Working Papers 0857, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Denis Fougère & Thierry Kamionka, 2002. "Bayesian Inference for the Mover-Stayer Model in Continuous Time with an Application to Labour Market Transition Data," Working Papers 2002-23, Centre de Recherche en Economie et Statistique.
  11. Harris, John R & Todaro, Michael P, 1970. "Migration, Unemployment & Development: A Two-Sector Analysis," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 60(1), pages 126-42, March.
  12. James Albrecht & Lucas Navarro & Susan Vroman, 2006. "The Effects of Labor Market Policies in an Economy with an Informal Sector," Working Papers gueconwpa~06-06-06, Georgetown University, Department of Economics.
  13. 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.
  14. Baker, Michael, 1992. "Unemployment Duration: Compositional Effects and Cyclical Variability," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(1), pages 313-21, March.
  15. Evans, David S & Jovanovic, Boyan, 1989. "An Estimated Model of Entrepreneurial Choice under Liquidity Constraints," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(4), pages 808-27, August.
  16. Loayza, Norman V. & Rigolini, Jamele, 2006. "Informality trends and cycles," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4078, The World Bank.
  17. Jose Scheinkman & Aureo de Paula, 2007. "The Informal Sector," 2007 Meeting Papers 117, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  18. Dale Mortensen & Eva Nagypal, 2007. "More on Unemployment and Vacancy Fluctuations," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 10(3), pages 327-347, July.
  19. Maloney, William F., 2004. "Informality Revisited," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 32(7), pages 1159-1178, July.
  20. N Fiess & M Fugazza & WF Maloney, 2006. "Informal Labor Markets and Macroeconomic Fluctuations," Working Papers 2006_17, Business School - Economics, University of Glasgow.
  21. Boeri, Tito & Garibaldi, Pietro, 2002. "Shadow Activity and Unemployment in a Depressed Labour Market," CEPR Discussion Papers 3433, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  22. Kolm, Ann-Sofie & Larsen, Birthe, 2006. "Does Tax Evasion Affect Unemployment and Educational Choice?," Working Papers 12-2003, Copenhagen Business School, Department of Economics.
  23. Christopher Pissarides, 2007. "The unemployment volatility puzzle: is wage stickiness the answer?," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 4460, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  24. Shigeru Fujita & Garey Ramey, 2007. "The cyclicality of separation and job finding rates," Working Papers 07-19, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
  25. Bosch, Mariano & Goni, Edwin & Maloney, William, 2007. "The determinants of rising informality in Brazil : Evidence from gross worker flows," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4375, The World Bank.
  26. repec:oup:restud:v:53:y:1986:i:4:p:653-69 is not listed on IDEAS
  27. Flinn, Christopher J & Heckman, James J, 1983. "Are Unemployment and Out of the Labor Force Behaviorally Distinct Labor Force States?," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 1(1), pages 28-42, January.
  28. Antman, Francisca & McKenzie, David J., 2005. "Earnings mobility and measurement error : a pseudo-panel approach," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3745, The World Bank.
  29. Olivier Jean Blanchard & Peter Diamond, 1992. "The Flow Approach to Labor Markets," NBER Working Papers 4000, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  30. 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.
  31. 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.
  32. Kolm, Ann-Sofie & Larsen, Birthe, 2001. "Moral Costs, The Informal Sector And Unemployment," Working Papers 01-2001, Copenhagen Business School, Department of Economics.
  33. Mazumdar, Dipak, 1976. "The urban informal sector," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 4(8), pages 655-679, August.
  34. Robert Shimer, 2007. "Reassessing the Ins and Outs of Unemployment," NBER Working Papers 13421, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  35. repec:oup:restud:v:61:y:1994:i:3:p:397-415 is not listed on IDEAS
  36. Jovanovic, Boyan, 1982. "Selection and the Evolution of Industry," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(3), pages 649-70, May.
  37. Robert Shimer, 2005. "The cyclicality of hires, separations, and job-to-job transitions," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Jul, pages 493-508.
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