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Efficiency wage theory, labormarkets, and adjustment

  • Riveros, Luis A.
  • Bouton, Lawrence

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.

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Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 731.

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Date of creation: 31 Jul 1991
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Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:731
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  1. Malcomson, James M, 1981. "Unemployment and the Efficiency Wage Hypothesis," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 91(364), pages 848-66, December.
  2. William T. Dickens & Lawrence F. Katz, 1986. "Interindustry Wage Differences and Industry Characteristics," NBER Working Papers 2014, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. MacLeod, W. Bentley & Malcomson, James M., 1993. "Wage premiums and profit maximization in efficiency wage models," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 37(6), pages 1223-1249, August.
  4. Raff, Daniel M G & Summers, Lawrence H, 1987. "Did Henry Ford Pay Efficiency Wages?," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 5(4), pages S57-86, October.
  5. Salop, Steven C, 1979. "A Model of the Natural Rate of Unemployment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 69(1), pages 117-25, March.
  6. Summers, Lawrence H, 1988. "Relative Wages, Efficiency Wages, and Keynesian Unemployment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(2), pages 383-88, May.
  7. Robert E. Hall, 1975. "The Rigidity of Wages and the Persistence of Unemployment," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 6(2), pages 301-350.
  8. Greenwald, Bruce & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1989. "Toward a Theory of Rigidities," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(2), pages 364-69, May.
  9. Lawrence F. Katz, 1986. "Efficiency Wage Theories: A Partial Evaluation," NBER Working Papers 1906, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Summers, Lawrence H. & Dickens, William T. & Katz, Lawrence F. & Lang, Kevin, 1989. "Employee Crime and the Monitoring Puzzle," Scholarly Articles 3645199, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  11. Kahn, Charles & Mookherjee, Dilip, 1988. "A Competitive Efficiency Wage Model with Keynesian Features," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 103(4), pages 609-45, November.
  12. Lazear, Edward P, 1981. "Agency, Earnings Profiles, Productivity, and Hours Restrictions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(4), pages 606-20, September.
  13. Bulow, Jeremy I & Summers, Lawrence H, 1986. "A Theory of Dual Labor Markets with Application to Industrial Policy,Discrimination, and Keynesian Unemployment," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 4(3), pages 376-414, July.
  14. Akerlof, George A, 1982. "Labor Contracts as Partial Gift Exchange," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 97(4), pages 543-69, November.
  15. Lai, Ching-chong, 1990. "Efficiency wages and currency devaluation," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 33(4), pages 353-357, August.
  16. Waller, Christopher J., 1989. "Efficiency wages, wage indexation and macroeconomic stabilization," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 30(2), pages 125-128, August.
  17. Campbell, Carl III, 1989. "Sectoral wage rigidity in the Canadian and French economies," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 33(9), pages 1727-1749, December.
  18. Lang, Kevin & Kahn, Shulamit, 1990. "Efficiency Wage Models of Unemployment: A Second View," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 28(2), pages 296-306, April.
  19. Calvo, Guillermo, 1979. "Quasi-Walrasian Theories of Unemployment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 69(2), pages 102-07, May.
  20. William T. Dickens, 1986. "Wages, Employment and the Threat of Collective Action by Workers," NBER Working Papers 1856, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  21. Krueger, Alan B & Summers, Lawrence H, 1988. "Efficiency Wages and the Inter-industry Wage Structure," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 56(2), pages 259-93, March.
  22. Solow, Robert M., 1979. "Another possible source of wage stickiness," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 79-82.
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