DP5784 A Theory of Employment Guarantees: Contestability, Credibility and Distributional Concerns

Author(s): Arnab K Basu, Nancy H Chau, Ravi Kanbur
Publication Date: August 2006
Keyword(s): credibility, employment guarantees, employment targeting, poverty aversion
JEL(s): I38, J21, K31, O12
Programme Areas: Labour Economics, Public Economics
Link to this Page: www.cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=5784

This paper develops a theory of employment guarantees when labor markets are imperfect and when the credibility of government policy announcements could be in doubt. The basic feature of an EGS is that any individual who satisfies a set of specified criteria is guaranteed public employment at a given wage if they want it. Thus, the two factors that define the guarantee are the wage and the ease of access. The problem for the planner is to choose these to maximize a social welfare function. If the labour market is perfectly competitive, then the introduction of an employment guarantee scheme is bound to have efficiency costs, and can only be justified through its positive distributional consequences – this has been the framework for most of the theoretical and empirical analysis of employment guarantee schemes. If the labor market is imperfect, however, the announcement of a credible employment guarantee scheme can improve efficiency through the introduction of contestability in the private labour market. The paper then considers the issue of credibility and solves for an incentive compatible employment guarantee scheme in a rational expectations equilibrium. It is shown that the outcome with a planner who cares only about efficiency can be less efficient than the outcome with a planner whose social welfare function also gives weight to poverty!