Tackling informality to improve the business environment and labour utilisation
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Informality often arises from disincentives associated with high taxes and a restrictive regulatory framework in both labour and product markets. About 20% of the Chilean population aged 15 years and above and working at least 20 hours per week did not have a formal labour contract in 2006. At the same time, nearly 11% of the potential value added tax base is estimated to have been undeclared in 2005. While Chile’s tax system is not particularly burdensome to business formality, there is scope for making product-market regulations less onerous to firms and the labour code more flexible, especially with regards to indefinite contracts and the allocation of working time. Low human capital remains an important obstacle to reducing labour informality. To the extent that informal businesses also hire informally, there is some room for designing policies to tackle business informality in conjunction with those aimed at boosting formal labour contracting. Chile is strengthening its social safety net through the introduction of unemployment insurance and by reforming existing health insurance and pension systems. An important policy question is whether the incentives for formality arising from more comprehensive social protection will be strong enough to compensate for the additional costs these contributory programmes entail.