Employment protection reform in European labor markets: the collective bargaining regime matters.

By Francesco De Palma and Yann Thommen

http://d.repec.org/n?u=RePEc:ulp:sbbeta:2019-16&r=dge

Policy advisers repeatedly call on Western European countries to reform their employment protection legislation (EPL) by adopting layoff taxes to finance unemployment insurance (UI). This new design, partly based on the existing “experience-rating” (ER) system in the U.S., would induce firms to internalize layoff fiscal costs and hence reduce unemployment. Its success remains uncertain in economies with a collective wage-setting system, as in many Western European countries. Using a matching model with endogenous job destruction, we provide an ex-ante evaluation of this policy reform’s effects on labor market outcomes in a firm-level bargaining economy and a sector-level bargaining one. Using numerical exercises, we show that compared to a scenario of a simple increase in EPL stringency, the implementation of an ER system results in a decrease in unemployment under both bargaining regimes. Because of the possibility for firms to adjust most terms and conditions of employment (including wage) in decentralized negotiations, juxtaposing the ER system with the existing EPL yields the best labor market performance under a firm-level bargaining regime. The lack of internal flexibility in sector-level bargaining calls for accompanying the implementation of the ER with a relaxation of the existing EPL’s stringency. Lastly, we show that in industries with a turbulent economic environment, accompanying the introduction of ER while reducing the existing EPL’s strictness is recommended.

It seems obvious, like in any insurance problem with moral hazard, experience rating can only improve unemployment insurance. But, as the authors point us, other factors come into play in general equilibrium. It turns out experience rating is still a good idea for Europe while doing the kind of employment policy reform that is usually recommended anyway.

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