OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers

This series is designed to make available to a wider readership selected labour market, social policy and migration studies prepared for use within the OECD. Authorship is usually collective, but principal writers are named. The papers are generally available only in their original language - English or French - with a summary in the other.

English, French

The Role of Institutions and Firm Heterogeneity for Labour Market Adjustment

Cross-Country Firm-Level Evidence

This paper investigates the role of policies and institutions for aggregate labour market dynamics during the global financial crisis using firm-level data. The use of firm-level data is important if firms are heterogeneous in their labour input adjustment technologies. In this case, cross-country differences in aggregate labour market dynamics may not just stem from cross-country differences in average labour input technologies - here assumed to be largely due to differences in institutional settings -, but also from differences in the distribution of shocks across firms within countries and the composition of firms across countries. The contribution of this paper is threefold. First, the paper provides comparable estimates of the labour input adjustment behaviour of firms in response to output shocks across countries, industries and firm-size groups. Second, it makes use of decomposition methods to get a first indication of the importance of cross-country differences in adjustment technologies, the distribution of shocks across firms and the composition of firms across countries. We find that differences in the adjustment behaviour of firms account for about 40% of the cross-country variation in aggregate employment growth during the global financial crisis. We interpret this as prima facie evidence that differences in institutional settings accounted for a substantial part of the variation in aggregate employment growth during the crisis. Third, we find that employment-protection provisions with respect to regular workers reduce the output elasticity of employment, but increase the output elasticity of earnings per worker. Thus, employment protection tends to shift the burden of adjustment from the extensive to the intensive margin. However, the quantitative impact of employment protection for explaining the variation in aggregate labour dynamics during the global financial crisis is relatively small.


Keywords: global financial crisis, employment protection
JEL: J23: Labor and Demographic Economics / Demand and Supply of Labor / Labor Demand; E24: Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics / Consumption, Saving, Production, Investment, Labor Markets, and Informal Economy / Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity
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