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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. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. Kolm, Ann-Sofie & Larsen, Birthe, 2004. "Does tax evasion affect unemployment and educational choice?," Working Paper Series 2004:4, IFAU - Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy.
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  15. 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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  19. 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.
  20. 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.
  21. Denis Fougère & Thierry Kamionka, 2003. "Bayesian inference for the mover-stayer model in continuous time with an application to labour market transition data," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 18(6), pages 697-723.
  22. Mortensen, Dale T. & Nagypál, Éva, 2005. "More on Unemployment and Vacancy Fluctuations," IZA Discussion Papers 1765, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  23. Robert Shimer, 2007. "Reassessing the Ins and Outs of Unemployment," NBER Working Papers 13421, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  24. 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.
  25. 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.
  26. 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.
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  28. Loayza, Norman V. & Rigolini, Jamele, 2006. "Informality trends and cycles," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4078, The World Bank.
  29. Mazumdar, Dipak, 1976. "The urban informal sector," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 4(8), pages 655-679, August.
  30. Geweke, John & Marshall, Robert C & Zarkin, Gary A, 1986. "Exact Inference for Continuous Time Markov Chain Models," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 53(4), pages 653-69, August.
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  33. 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.
  34. 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.
  35. Jovanovic, Boyan, 1982. "Selection and the Evolution of Industry," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(3), pages 649-70, May.
  36. Baker, Michael, 1992. "Unemployment Duration: Compositional Effects and Cyclical Variability," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(1), pages 313-21, March.
  37. 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.
  38. Kolm, Ann-Sofie & Larsen, Birthe, 2001. "Moral Costs, The Informal Sector And Unemployment," Working Papers 01-2001, Copenhagen Business School, Department of Economics.
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