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Efficiency wage theory, labormarkets, and adjustment

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  • Riveros, Luis A.
  • Bouton, Lawrence

Abstract

Conventional labor theory argues that wages are determined by the interaction of labor supply and demand. Policy analysis on wage rigidity has emphasized distortions arising from exogenous intervention. One emphasis in adjustment lending has been deregulation of labor markets. Efficiency wage models of unemployment try to explain persistent real wage rigidities when unemployment persists. Their central assumption is that higher real wages can improve labor productivity. A major implication of these theories is that wages (and hence labor markets) may be unresponsive to typical macroeconomic policies that seek to lower real wages, change resource allocation, and reduce open unemployment. The three central macroeconomic implications of efficiency wage theory are : 1) there is an equilibrium"natural"level of open unemployment, which differs among groups in the labor force and cannot be affected by demand management policies; 2) when reducing the level of production, the typical firm will resort to laying off labor instead of reducing wages, thereby introducing a significant wage inertia and an overshooting of open unemployment; and 3) wages do not respond to clear the labor market and are not responsive to macroeconomic policies and microeconomic deregulation. The authors conclude that applying the theory in developing countries requires suitably defining labor costs and tackling the problem of segmentation of the labor market.

Suggested Citation

  • Riveros, Luis A. & Bouton, Lawrence, 1991. "Efficiency wage theory, labormarkets, and adjustment," Policy Research Working Paper Series 731, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:731
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    References listed on IDEAS

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