Reforming an Insider-Outsider Labor Market: The Spanish - IZA



IZA DP No. 6186

Reforming an Insider-Outsider Labor Market: The Spanish Experience Samuel Bentolila Juan J. Dolado Juan F. Jimeno

December 2011

Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit Institute for the Study of Labor

Reforming an Insider-Outsider Labor Market: The Spanish Experience Samuel Bentolila CEMFI, CEPR and CESifo

Juan J. Dolado Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, CEPR and IZA

Juan F. Jimeno Banco de España, CEPR and IZA

Discussion Paper No. 6186 December 2011

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IZA Discussion Paper No. 6186 December 2011

ABSTRACT Reforming an Insider-Outsider Labor Market: The Spanish Experience* This paper presents a case study on reforming a very dysfunctional labor market with a deep insider-outsider divide, namely the Spanish case. We show how a dual market, with permanent and temporary employees makes real reform much harder, and leads to purely marginal changes that do not alter the fundamental features of labor market institutions. While the Great Recession and the start of the sovereign debt crisis triggered two labor reforms, the political economy equilibrium has not allowed them to be transformational enough.

JEL Classification: Keywords:

H29, J23, J38, J41, J64

temporary contracts, dualism, labor market reform, political economy, Great Recession

Corresponding author: Juan J. Dolado Department of Economics Universidad Carlos III C/. Madrid 126 28903 Getafe (Madrid) Spain E-mail: [email protected]


Prepared for the OECD/University of Maryland Conference on “Labour Activation in Times of High Unemployment”, Paris, 14-15 November 2011. We are very grateful to Edward Montgomery for useful comments and to Florentino Felgueroso, J. Ignacio García-Pérez, and Marcel Jansen for help and for letting us use their data.



Since the early 1980s, the world economy has been subject to the twin forces of growing globalization and technological progress. European countries have tried to adapt labor market institutions to the changes associated with those shocks. The strategy in many of those economies has been to introduce labor market ‡exibility at the margin, by widening the scope of so-called atypical employment, through temporary and part-time contracts. This, together with the high rates of unionization or coverage of collective bargaining prevailing in these countries, has exacerbated the insider-outsider divide in their labor markets. The latter term comes from the insider-outsider model, which explains how unemployment can arise when working conditions, and wages in particular, are determined by taking into account only the interests of employed insiders, thus disregarding the interests of unemployed outsiders.1 Though in most instances the introduction of ‡exibility at the margin was perceived as a transitory measure aimed at counteracting the negative employment consequences of the recessions during the early 1980s and early 1990s, the incidence of atypical employment has continuously increased: in 1980 the temporary employment rate among employees in Europe was around 7.5%, now it is around 14%, reaching maximum values in Portugal (23%) and Spain (25%). The expansion of 1995-2006 drew attention away from unemployment, but the impact of the …nancial crisis, the employment consequences of the Great Recession, and the need for supply policies to promote long-term growth in Europe in the context of European Monetary Union (EMU), have again shifted the focus towards new labor market reforms. While the drawbacks of atypical employment were blurred by the boom, with the recession the empirical evidence on its negative economic and social e¤ects has become more salient, so that the need for a di¤erent type of labor market reform has become increasingly evident.2 Given past experience, this time the dualism strategy seems discredited and 1

This literature started with the the models of Lindbeck and Snower (1984,1988) and the hysteresis model of Blanchard and Summers (1986) 2 See International Monetary Fund (2010), especially Box 3.1, and Boeri (2011).


some proposals have started to explore new routes, which are geared towards making labor market regulation more e¢ cient, ‡exible, and simple.3 These proposals, however, face the di¢ culty of eliminating an insider-outsider divide that, in some countries, has become entrenched. The reason for its equilibrium nature is that it is bene…cial to particular groups of workers and employers, mostly represented by unions and employer associations with institutional recognition and political power. In this regards, this paper revisits the Spanish case. Building upon a large stream of previous studies on labor market reforms in this country, we now discuss the Spanish labor market performance during the Great Recession (Section 2), highlight the main institutional peculiarities that give rise to an extreme insider-outsider labor market in Spain (Section 3), address some elements of the political economy of labor market reforms (Section 4), describe and assess (negatively) the Spanish labor market reforms undertaken in the midst of the crisis (Section 5), and review some of the recent proposals to reform the Spanish labor market (Section 6). We conclude (Section 7) with some comments on the priority that labor market reforms should have in the program of structural reforms that the Spanish economy urgently needs at the current juncture.


Labor market performance in the Great Recession

During last few decades, the Spanish labor market has shown clear signs of a dysfunctional performance. The Spanish unemployment rate has not only been permanently among the highest in the OECD, but it has also experienced staggering swings: as Figure 1 illustrates, starting from around 5% in 1978, the (OECD harmonised) unemployment rate reached a peak above 17% in 1985, fell back to around 13% in 1990, only to shoot up again to more than 19% in 1994. During the long expansion of 1995-2006, the unemployment rate decreased to 8% in 2007. Nowadays, after the huge employment impact of the …nancial crisis, it is again close to 21%. As shown in the graph, these are much wider ‡uctuations than those experienced by France, which is representative of the Eurozone average. The 3

See Blanchard and Tirole (2003), Cahuc and Kramarz (2004), Boeri and Garibaldi (2008), Bentolila et al. (2008), Ichino et al. (2009), and Andrés et al. (2009).


cyclical features of the Spanish labor market are also remarkable. Labor productivity and real wages are strongly countercyclical, in part due to employment composition e¤ects derived from the high incidence of temporary contracts, since they are typically associated to low-wage/productivity jobs which are easily created in expansions and quickly destroyed in downturns. Moreover, despite high …ring costs for permanent contracts, employment is highly volatile, even more than in countries with low employment adjustment costs.4 Bentolila and Jimeno (2006) provided an explanation of the main factors behind the wild ride of the Spanish unemployment rate over the period 1976-2001. It relied mostly on the interaction between macroeconomic shocks and a set of exceptionally unemploymentprone institutions, in particular, employment protection legislation (EPL), unemployment bene…ts, and collective bargaining. The paper cautioned against interpreting the relatively low unemployment rates of the mid-2000s as a sign of a permanent decrease in structural unemployment and called for signi…cant labor market reforms in the wake of the introduction of the euro. From 2001 to 2007, two key factors supported employment growth. The …rst one was a signi…cant expansion of credit, induced by the fall in interest rates that followed Spain’s accession to EMU and, more broadly, by a pervasive relaxation in the conditions of access to credit. The second factor was a very large immigration in‡ow which, attracted by the growing specialization of the Spanish economy in low value added and highly laborintensive industries (construction, tourism, personal services) as a result of the investment boom, has substantially modi…ed the demographic structure of the Spanish population. These being the driving forces, growth could not be sustained permanently. Moreover, both labor and total factor productivity growth were very low, and important distortions in the domestic labor and product markets persisted, so that competitiveness deteriorated signi…cantly. This, together with the sharp increase in private sector indebtedness, led to the Spanish economy being increasingly dependent of external …nancing (the current account de…cit reached 10% of GDP in 2007), a situation which made it especially vul3

On employment composition e¤ects on wages, see Carrasco et al. (2011). On the consequences of temporary employment, see Dolado et al. (2002), and Bentolila et al. (2008). 4 See Costain et al. (2011).


nerable in the subsequent global …nancial crisis. Despite these weaknesses, the impact of the …nancial crisis in Spain was, at least initially, not larger than in other European Union (EU) countries. As illustrated in Figure 2 the cumulative decline in GDP during 2008Q2-2009Q2 was equal to 4.4%, below the EU14 average (i.e. EU15 minus Spain). The cross-country variation of the growth impact of the crisis is rooted in the nature of the expansion during the preceding period and, hence, in the sectorial specialization when the crisis hit. In countries with high private sector indebtedness, housing was by far the largest component of household wealth (80% of all assets in the Spanish case5 ) and a high share of productive resources were devoted to the construction industry. When a housing bust followed the housing boom, there was a large negative demand shock, derived from the loss of wealth, and also a negative supply shock, linked to the past accumulation of inputs in now highly unproductive industries. Hence, in these countries the …nancial crisis had signi…cant and long-lasting e¤ects on economic activity. By contrast, in countries where housing prices did not grow much, the sectoral allocation of resources was not distorted by credit conditions, and households were not much in debt. Therefore, the main impact of the crisis was only a temporary fall in aggregate demand, stemming from a signi…cant fall in exports that took place when, following the Lehman Brothers episode (15 September 2008), the …nancial crisis became systemic and disrupted world trade over 2008Q4-2009Q1. Hence, these countries also had a signi…cant fall in GDP, but it was apparently less persistent. As is evident from Figure 2, during the 2008Q2-2009Q2 period, the cumulative GDP loss in Spain was much smaller than the employment loss, which was equal to 7%, surpassed only by Ireland. It is often argued that the huge employment-GDP elasticity is due to large employment losses in the construction industry. Figure 3 shows that there is indeed a positive correlation of the housing price growth rate in 2000-2007 with the increase in the unemployment rate in 2007-2009, but there are three countries which are clear outliers in those relationships, namely Ireland, Spain, and the US. Moreover, as revealed by Figure 4, the negative relationship between housing in‡ation and employment growth also 5

See Banco de España (2010).


holds when the construction industry is excluded. Hence, this evidence suggests that the main culprit for the large impact on employment must be found elsewhere. In our search for alternative explanations, we can analyze the role of di¤erent factors underlying cross-country variation in the employment impact of the Great Recession. While it is true that the rise of unemployment has been largest in countries experiencing housing booms and external imbalances during the expansion,6 it is also the case that the so-called Okun coe¢ cient relating unemployment changes to output growth has recently been out of line with its historical values in many countries. Spain, in particular, is one of the countries where employment growth has been much lower and the rise of unemployment has been much larger than expected given the size of the decline of output.7 To examine the Okun coe¢ cient, it is useful to decompose the variation of unemployment as follows.8 Given than u

ln e; where u denotes the unemployment rate and e

the ratio of employment (N ) to the labor force (LF ), and that ln N =

ln Y

ln(Y =H)

ln(H=N )

where H denotes working hours and Y is GDP, we have the following approximate identity u

ln Y +

ln(Y =H) +

ln(H=N ) +

ln(LF )

Table 1 gives the …gures corresponding to this breakdown during the …rst phase of the …nancial crisis (2008Q1-2009Q4) for the US, Germany, and Spain. According to the previous identity, the change in the unemployment rate (…rst row) is the sum of the growth rates of output, productivity per hour worked, hours per worker, and the labor force (rows 2 to 5). This decomposition reveals the reasons why the change in the Spanish unemployment rate during the period 2008-2009 has been twice as high as in the US. First, the decline in output in Spain has been more than twice the fall in the US. Moreover, increases in productivity, hours per worker, and the labor force have also 6

For a comparison in a larger sample of countries, see European Commission (2011). See Arpaia and Curci (2010). 8 This is the decomposition used by Burda and Hunt (2011), in their analysis of the German “Labor Maket Miracle” in the Great Recession, where employment losses have been much lower than expected from the output fall. 7


pushed unemployment up. The rise in the labor force, in contrast with the boom, is largely not due to immigration but, more likely, to added worker e¤ects.9 This evolution also contrasts with that of the German labor market where, with a larger decline in output than in Spain, unemployment decreased due to a reduction in labor productivity, hours per worker, and the labor force The fact that productivity is countercyclical and that wages and hours worked do not adjust in the aftermath of negative shocks in Spain are, to a large extent, the consequences of the institutional framework of the Spanish labor market, which we sketch in the following section.


An insider-outsider labor market

The Spanish labor market is characterized by marked dualism. In order to show how this situation came about, in this section we describe the main institutional features of EPL and collective bargaining in Spain, and then discuss the role of their interaction in generating an insider-outsider labor market.


Employment protection legislation

At the end of the Franco regime in late 1975, severance pay was very high, judicial protection was very stringent, unemployment insurance was very low and limited, and there was no collective bargaining. The main labor market institutions under the new democratic regime were established in 1980 Workers’Statute which, in order to attract union support for a smooth political transition process, maintained the existing employment protection rules, extended unemployment insurance and made it more generous, and established collective bargaining. The dual approach to EPL in Spain started in 1984, when …xed-term contracts were liberalized, so that, at that time, …rms could hire …xed-term employees subject a low severance pay (originally 12 days’ wages per year of service, hereafter p.y.o.s.) for any kind of job, with a contract duration between 6 months and 3 years and compulsory 9

See Casado et al. (2011).


conversion into permanent thereafter. As for permanent contracts, their conditions remained unchanged: workers were entitled to severance pay of 20 days’ wages per year of service (with a maximum of 12 months’wages) in the case of fair dismissal and to 45 days’wages p.y.o.s. (with a maximum of 42 months’wages) in case of unfair dismissal. Thus, there was a large gap in EPL between permanent and temporary jobs, collective dismissals required administrative approval (de facto not granted without an agreement with worker representatives), economic reasons for fair dismissals included in the law were quite limited, and labor courts had a very restrictive reading of those reasons. Moreover, constraints on internal ‡exibility, arising from regulations on geographic and functional mobility of employees were also strongly binding. Thus, it is not surprising that soon after the reform almost all hires were conducted under …xed-term contracts and that the incidence of temporary workers exceeded 30% of all employees in the early 1990s. In view of this dramatic burst of temporary jobs, a long sequence of countervailing EPL reforms have subsequently taken place since 1994 in order to reduce the incidence of temporary jobs. All of these reforms share, to some extent, two common features.10 First, the conditions for the use of …xed-term contracts have been restricted, although temporary work agencies have been allowed to operate since 1994. Secondly, severance pay for permanent employees has been gradually and mildly reduced. This has been done through several measures. First, 1997 saw the creation of so-called employment-promotion permanent contracts, entailing lower severance pay in case of unfair dismissal (33 days’ wages p.y.o.s. with a maximum of 24 months’ wages), yet targeted to speci…c groups of workers with lower employment opportunities and excluding most prime-age (30-44 y.o.) employees. Second, in 2002, in case of unfair dismissal, …rms were allowed to avoid going to court if they deposited the penalty severance rate and the worker accepted it (thus avoiding also advance notice, the payment of interim wages, and uncertainty on the outcome in court). Then there were also a myriad of small changes in EPL throughout the period. On top of this, there have been signi…cant rebates of social security contributions for 10

See Bentolila et al. (2008).


…rms either directly hiring with, or converting temporary into, permanent contracts. The rebates ranged from 40% to 60% during the …rst two years of contracts used to hire workers in some targeted groups (youth, long-term unemployed, and women underrepresented in some industries). However, since social security contributions are reduced only for a limited initial period (typically up to 3 years), it has been common for …rms to …re workers as soon as the subsidy expired, so that there are signi…cant increases in separation rates caused by the subsidy for most groups of workers, especially over the …rst year (García Pérez and Rebollo Sanz, 2009). As a result, turnover in employment-promotion permanent contracts is much higher than in standard permanent contracts. Several labor market reforms (in 1994, 1997, 2002, 2006) have played around with combinations of these. They aimed at …ghting the prevalence of temporary employment, but they turned out no to be very successful since, by the mid-2000s, the share of temporary workers still remained very high (33.5% of employees), with a large number of contracts being signed each year, more that 20 times the ‡ow of net new jobs, and a low conversion rate into open-ended contracts, around 6% of the total number of contracts. This churning creates an sizeable welfare loss due to the high uncertainty associated with temporary contracts, but it also creates a host of other negative e¤ects. On the e¢ ciency front, Spain has su¤ered for more than a decade negative Total Factor Productivity (TFP) growth and this is in part related to temporary contracts. Dolado et al. (2011) highlights the negative e¤ect of the low conversion rate of temporary jobs into permanent jobs on worker e¤ort and estimates that 20% of the slowdown in TFP in Spanish manufacturing …rms over the period 1992-2005 is due to temporary work. This is consistent with the fact that, according to the Survey of Quality of Life in Work, while 40% of permanent employees received training paid by their …rms in 2006 (a pre-crisis year), only 23% of temporary employees did.11 Last but not least, while temporary contracts were initially limited to younger workers, they are now widespread also among adults. Figure 5 shows that, over the period 2005Q12007Q3 (the end of the boom), 80% of workers aged 16-19 had a temporary contract and 11

Source: Encuesta de Calidad de Vida en el Trabajo (Quality of Life at Work Survey). We are grateful to Florentino Felgueroso for providing us with these data.


that the temporary employment share falls, but 32% of workers in their thirties were still in temporary jobs and 24% of those in their fourties. This pro…le falls even less among the least skilled. This …nding throws into sharp relief the idea that temporary contracts have largely destroyed the expectations of a professional career for Spanish workers. Since the peak in 2006Q3, at 34.6%, there has been a substantial reduction in the temporary employment rate of about 10 pp. Part of this drop can be attributed to the huge destruction of temporary jobs in the construction industry, due to the bursting of the housing bubble since the beginning of 2008. In particular, from 2008Q1 to 2011Q2, 60% of all temporary jobs were lost in net terms (650,000 jobs). As a reaction to the huge employment impact of the crisis, there has been another recent reform of EPL in 2010, which we discuss below. Summing up, despite all these countervailing reforms, the dual nature of EPL is still very pronounced in Spain and …rms continue …nding it more pro…table to hire new workers under …xed-term contracts, despite all the ine¢ ciencies generated by a clearly excessive worker turnover.


Collective bargaining

Besides dual EPL, the social partners, i.e. labor unions and employers associations, support the insider-outsider model by exploiting collusion opportunities provided by the regulation of collective bargaining. This labor market institution exhibits the following features:12 (a) high coverage, around 80% of workers, though not so high as in Nordic countries, (b) an intermediate degree of coordination, with collective bargaining agreements being signed predominantly at the industry level though with some geographical decentralization (mostly at the province level), (c) erga omnes extension of collective bargaining agreements, namely, that they automatically apply to all workers and …rms within their scope, (d) frequent wage indexation rules, applying to around 65% of employees, and (e) frequent social pacts between the major trade unions and employers’association, with some guidelines for wage increases.13 12

A comprehensive source on the institutional characteristics of collective bargaining is the ICTWSS, see Visser (2011). 13 The latest agreement of this type was struck in 2009 for the period 2010-2012.


As for unions, a¢ liation is very low in Spain, around 15-20%, being larger in the public sector than in the private sector. Focusing only on the latter, there are large discrepancies according to contract type; for example, the a¢ liation rate is equal to 18.6% among permanent workers, but only to 7.8% among temporary workers. It also increases with age, going from 3% of permanent employees aged 16-24 to 25.5% of those aged 55-64. A similar increase is observed with seniority and with …rm size, from 7% of permanent employees at …rms with 1-10 employees to 31.8% for those at …rms over 250 employees (data for 2006 from Dolado et al., 2010). There is little incentive for workers to become a¢ liated to labor unions, since industrywide collective agreements are extended to all workers regardless of a¢ liation status (see below). The relative power of di¤erent unions depends on the legal regulation of worker representation. Worker representatives are chosen in …rm-level elections, which take place every four years in establishments above 5 employees. Labor unions which surpass 10% of the total number of worker representatives in a given industry (or 15% in a given region) obtain the status of being “highly representative”, which allows them to participate in all bargains in the domain of the collective agreement. There are only two labor unions with such representative status at the national level, Comisiones Obreras (CCOO) and Unión General de Trabajadores (UGT), though there are other smaller unions which also attain that status in a given industry or region. Given their low a¢ liation, labor unions obtain a very small share of their income from members. There is little information on union sources of funding, but most of it comes from the public sector. The two main unions receive funds from the national government for their worker representation activities and their participation in o¢ cial entities, while another share of public money comes from their involvement in training activities. According to one newspaper, over the period 2008-2011 labor unions received around 1 billion euros (0.03% of GDP per yerar) from the central government.14 Many regional governments channel funds to unions for their involvement in various activities, such as accident prevention, worker placement, and training. Lastly, unions also obtain funds 14

“Ell Gobierno ha dado más de 1.000 millones a los sindicatos desde 2008”, Fernando Cancio, La Razón, 25 November 2011.


by charging non-a¢ liated workers for their services (e.g. in bargaining about collective dismissals). How representative are labor unions? An important feature is that there are restrictions on who may participate in …rm-level elections. In particular, elections in establishments up to 5 employees are forbidden, and neither those employed with the …rm for less than one month nor those on lease from temporary work agencies can vote, nor can the unemployed either. According to Dolado et al. (2010) in 2007 these criteria excluded around 30% of all employees and, in particular, 41% of workers aged 16 to 24. As to employer associations, there is a national one, the Confederación Española de Organizaciones Empresariales (CEOE), which is in fact a confederation of 230 federations (175 are industry-speci…c and 55 are territorial), which themselves integrate more than 5,000 organizations comprising around 1.45 million …rms and entrepreneurs. Though there exists an associated confederation of small and medium-sized …rms (Confederación Española de la Pequeña y Mediana Empresa, CEPYME), CEOE is essentially run by large companies. Like with labor unions, little information is available on its funding; some comes from its member organizations and another part from their involvement in o¢ cial entities and training activities. The institutional setting of collective bargaining reinforces the dual nature of the Spanish labor market. With representation in most bargaining units being at the industry level, the major trade unions are able to set wages for the whole economy. On the …rms’ side, employer representatives see collective bargaining agreements as an instrument to regulate competition, by imposing wage and employment conditions on all …rms, regardless of the proportion of …rms represented in the bargaining unit. As a result, bargained wages do not react much to changes in …rm-speci…c productivity, while, due to the prevalence of wage indexation rules, they quickly adjust to increases in in‡ation. As a result, real wages –and relative wages across industries–display a high degree of rigidity.



Interactions between EPL and collective bargaining

The Spanish labor market stands out as an extreme case of a dual labor market in which the insider-outsider divide is very pronounced. There are two fundamental reasons. The …rst one lies with some peculiarities of employment protection legislation, which gives rise to a very high incidence of …xed-term jobs and to the concentration of worker turnover in very particular segments of the labor market. The second is the automatic extension of collective bargaining agreements to all …rms, regardless of the representativeness of the employer confederation signing the agreement and the economic and …nancial situation of the a¤ected …rms. This gives rise to two types of workers, and also two types of …rms. First, there are workers employed under the regular (full-time, open-ended) contracts subject to high …ring cost and covered by collective bargaining agreements that protect wages and employment conditions against in‡ation and adverse productivity shocks. By contrast, workers under …xed-term contracts (among which youths, women, and lowskill workers are overrepresented) can be easily dismissed, so that they su¤er the main burden of the adjustment to productivity or demand shocks. Regarding …rms, large and high-productivity …rms are less constrained by these regulations, as for them …rm-level bargaining is more accessible and wage levels are often above those set in industry-level collective agreements. At the same time they can use these levels as a barrier to entry and an instrument to reduce competition from smaller companies. Small and low-productivity …rms are much more constrained by industry-level collective bargaining, and therefore their prospects for growth are more limited. Thus, while the insider-outsider models of unemployment mentioned in the introduction associate insiders with employees and outsiders with the unemployed, in a two-tier labor market this partition is not right, since temporary workers have very little employment protection and therefore su¤er very high turnover. As a result, they typically have a weak attachment to each individual …rm, so that it is natural for their interests to be neglected by permanent employees. Therefore, the interaction between the collective bargaining regulation and EPL a¤ords unions and employer confederations very powerful instruments to reinforce the insider-outsider divide. For example, Jimeno and Toharia 12

(1996) found that incentives to exert e¤ort and avoid absenteeism were relatively higher for temporary workers who, given their very low …ring costs, feel the threat of dismissal much more than permanent workers. And Bentolila and Dolado (1994) found that, using temporary workers as a bu¤er against employment destruction, insiders can increase their wages without putting their jobs at risk. Many studies on wage dynamics have found that nominal wage growth in industrywide agreements is essentially determined by in‡ation, and, on the other hand, that wages hardly respond to productivity changes and respond only mildly to changes in unemployment.15 Thus, massive employment losses during the Great Recession, since they have fallen to a large extent on temporary workers, have not triggered wage moderation.


The political economy of labor market reform

Structural reforms are usually hard to carry out. The reason is that there always exist population groups that are negatively a¤ected by reforms and thus try to block or soften them. As a result, reforms require some political majority and certain economic conditions to materialize.16 The last pre-Great Recession major labor market reform in Spain took place in 1997, with an isolated (but eventually important) reform in 2002. This is not so surprising since the boom lasted from 1997 to 2007, and there is usually little incentive for politicians to reform in expansionary phases. However, the unemployment rate surged from 8% in 2007Q3 to 17.4% in 2009Q1, and yet it took until June 2010 for the …rst labor reform during the Great Recession to happen. We now discuss why and how that reform and other measures that followed were undertaken. We start by reviewing the literature on the determinants of structural reforms and then discuss the speci…cities of the Spanish setting. 15

For instance, Bentolila et al. (2010) found that a 1% upward deviation from the reference expected in‡ation rate, which was around 2% in the latter part of the boom, is associated with a 1.1% increase in nominal wages, whereas a 1% downward deviation is associated with a 0.3% fall in nominal wages. They also found that a 1 percentage point increase in unemployment only reduces wages by 0.2% and that there is no signi…cant association of wage growth with productivity growth. 16 See Saint-Paul (2000).



What factors trigger reform?

The literature on the timing of structural reforms has not yet provided a set of strong and widely accepted factors that are conducive to reform. We therefore provide a very brief review of a few representative results found in the literature. Saint-Paul (2002) …nds that the relationship of the business cycle with the timing of labor market reforms is not robust, except for marginal reforms –i.e. those that do not strongly alter labor market institutions–and for two-tier reforms that only a¤ect the ‡exible tier of the market, e.g. …xed-term contracts. An important …nding is the exposure e¤ect, namely that reforms happen when unemployment is rising, not just when it is high, so that insider workers are in danger of losing their jobs. Another interesting result that across-the-board reforms are mostly undertaken by right-wing governments. Duval and Elmeskov (2005), referring to structural reforms in general, …nd that economic crises and high unemployment do induce reforms. Somewhat surprisingly, they also …nd that absence of monetary policy autonomy is associated with lower structural reform activity.17 Other results are that a sound …scal balance may help undertaking reforms and that reforming one area (say the product market) helps reform in other areas. Another OECD paper, by Høj et al. (2006), reports results indicating that big economic crises are associated with higher overall reforms, but in the cases of job protection and bene…t systems reforms happen mostly in strong upswings. They also …nd that governments that have been in o¢ ce for some time are more able to reform and that, on average, left-of-center governments reform less. These authors also con…rm the last two conclusions of Duval and Elmeskov (2005).


Serial reformers?

As discussed earlier, labor market reforms are hardly unknown in Spain. Thus, one could argue that, on top of the standard resistance to reform, Spain also su¤ers from reform fatigue. It is therefore instructive to compare the Spanish experience regarding 17

This is against the “There Is No Alternative” (TINA) hypothesis, see Bean (1998) and also against the weak empirical evidence for increased labor reform in EMU countries vis-à-vis non-EMU European countries in Bertola (2010a).


employment protection with that of the three other major continental European economies –France, Germany, and Italy–to check if there are objective grounds for fatigue, i.e. to ask whether Spain has experienced an unusual frequency and/or intensity of labor market reforms. In Table 2 we show (in percentages) the fraction of years in which there have been measures reforming EPL, as well as the fractions of measures which have been ‡exibility-increasing (as opposed to decreasing), structural (v. marginal), complete (v. two-tier) and discrete (v. incremental), all of them as labeled in the Fondazione Rodolfo DeBenedetti–IZA Social Reforms Database ( Are the reform frequency and intensity comparatively high? Table 2 shows that the frequency is similar, and if anything, reforms have been less ‡exibility-increasing, less structural, and more incremental, though slightly more complete than in the other countries. Also, note that close to 40% of reforms have been ‡exibility-reducing, a higher share than elsewhere, indicating a high degree of regulatory uncertainty for both employers and workers. Given this evidence, it is hard to argue thatthe Spanish citizenship to be more reform-fatigued than in the other major European economies. But it may still be that perceived insecurity is very high in Spain. Let us look at the data.


Perceptions of insecurity

Do Spanish workers feel very insecure in their jobs? At …rst blush, not really. In 2005 Spain ranked sixth in the share of respondents who strongly agreed with the statement “My job is secure”, only below Denmark, Slovenia, Ireland, Romania, and the US, among 19 nations.19 Though there surely are business cycle e¤ects, note the lack of correlation with standard indices of employment rigidity: three of those high-security perception countries feature very lax EPL, whereas the other three have very stringent EPL. Indeed, 18

A reform is considered structural if it is comprehensive, addressing the broader design of existing systems, rather than their minor features. Two-tier measures involve only a fraction of the potentially eligible population, regardless of size of the reform. Discrete reforms are those entailing a change in an institution which is larger than one-tenth of the cross-country deviation in the intensity of the regulation in the middle year covered by the dataset, i.e. 1995 (which goes from 0 to 6). See Boeri (2011) 19 The other countries are Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. Source: Dolado et al. (2010) based on data from the International Social Survey Programme (


Dolado et al. (2010) argue that there is U-shaped relationship: perception of insecurity is high at those two extremes and lower in the middle. Moreover, as these authors remark, there is a fallacy of composition. There are large di¤erence in opinions about job security among di¤erent population groups. Temporary contracts are more prevalent the younger the worker and this clearly shows up in perceptions. Figure 6 breaks down perceptions of job insecurity by age group. Spain shows a steep upward pattern which is quite uncommon in the other economies included in the survey. The average for the other 18 countries shows hardly any slope from 16-24 to 45-54 years old. In fact, the degree of insecurity perceived by Spanish 16-24 year olds is one standard deviation above that average and insecurity perceived by 45-54 year olds is 1.7 standard deviations below the average. These di¤erential perceptions have been validated by subsequent developments. From 2007:Q4 to 2010:Q4 employment of the 16-24 year olds fell by 41.9% but that of workers aged 45-54 years old grew by 2.4%. This is a much larger di¤erence than in the Eurozone, where the respective …gures were -13.3% and 4.6%, i.e. an 18 percentage-point di¤erence versus the 44.3 pp for Spain. Both perceptions and realizations con…rm the deep divide between insiders and outsiders. However, since political economy is driven by votes, do these perceptions translate into a di¤erential degree of support for labor market reform?


Political support for reforms

What are voter attitudes regarding labor market reform? Table 3 presents the percentage share of respondents in Spain and in the EU15 countries, and according to di¤erent characteristics, who agree with the following statement: “Work contracts should become more ‡exible to encourage job creation”, from the May-June 2009 Eurobarometer (source: Dolado et al., 2010). The survey data reveal that there is indeed more resistance to labor market reform among Spanish nationals than among EU15 citizens, though all the shares are still above 50%. There is again a much larger gap between the 16-24 year olds and the 45-54 year olds in Spain (4.8 pp) than in the EU-15 (0.6 pp). It is also noticeable that the social groups


that are more favorable to labor reform are low-skill employees and the unemployed, which are not the most politically in‡uential. Let us now look at what support could be expected from the insiders. As already pointed out, according to Saint-Paul (2002), labor reform is more likely to happen the higher is the exposure of insiders to the risk of job loss. Following the arguments given in Section 3, we shall consider that the insiders are those with permanent jobs, whereas temporary employees and the unemployed are outsiders. Moreover, among employees with permanent contracts, there are some with the old “ordinary”contract (entitled to 45 days’wages p.y.o.s., with a maximum of 42 months’wages in case of unfair dismissal) and entrants hired under the new, employment-promotion permanent contract (entitled to 33 days’ wages p.y.o.s., with a maximum of 24 months’ wages in case of unfair dismissal). Since, as indicated above, the turnover rate of the latter is much higher than for the former, it is therefore unclear whether their interests regarding labor market reform are close to those of workers on ordinary contracts. Taking these caveats into account, Dolado et al. (2002) argue that the likelihood of labor market reform should be higher if outsiders represent the majority of the labor force. They construct two indexes of the weight of outsiders in the Spanish labor force, depending on whether or not workers under the employment-promotion permanent contracts are considered as insiders. Figure 7 plots these two indexes for the period 1987Q2-2011Q2. The lesson to be drawn is that the 1994 and 1997 reforms took place at a time when outsiders outnumbered insiders (i.e., their incidence was above 50%). Then, as a result of these reforms and of the subsequent long expansionary phase from 1997 to 2007, the fall in unemployment and the rise in the use of permanent contracts for new hires implied a large reduction of the fraction of outsiders quite below 50%, which is consistent with the lack of major reforms during this period. Note that, even after the adverse employment e¤ect of the Great Recession, the fraction of temporary workers and unemployed remains around 42% since most dismissed workers previously held a temporary contract, so that there has been a sizeable change in the composition of outsiders but not in its size. If we adopt the wider measure of outsiders that also includes workers under employment-


promotion contracts, the fraction of outsiders gets closer to 50%, though in literal terms it is still below the majority. We therefore do not get a clear signal from this indicator on why another reform took place in 2010. Alternatively, it is interesting to look at how employment losses have been distributed among workers according to contract type. As can be observed in Figure 8, temporary jobs have fallen precipitously since the early phases of the crisis, while permanent jobs kept on rising, su¤ering the …rst drop only in 2009Q3. Taking 2007Q3 as the start of the recession, the stock of employees on temporary contracts has fallen by around 30%, whereas permanent employment has only fallen below the 2007Q3 value in 2011Q1. These …gures suggest that insiders have not been overly exposed yet, though their jobs are starting to feel threatened. Quite tellingly, Dolado et al. (2010) estimate that 99% of job losses from 2007Q3 and 2009Q3 came from workers not a¢ liated with labor unions.


Crisis-induced reforms


What triggered labor reforms?

The extraordinary rise in unemployment in Spain since 2007 was insu¢ cient to trigger labor market reform. Before and during the Great Recession, the Spanish Socialist government did not think that such a reform was necessary and stated that, in case one were to be undertaken, it would come from an agreement between the social partners, i.e. the two main labor unions and the employer’s association. Talks were held between those partners for more than two years without any agreement. At that stage of the crisis (around November 2009) the standard measure of the risk premium on public debt, the di¤erential between the yield of the Spanish 10-year bond and the equivalent German Bund stood at 55 basis points. December 2009 brought the start of the crisis that eventually led to the …rst Greek bailout, with the Spanish di¤erential raising to around 70 basis points in March. Then risk premia escalated in most peripheral Euro Area member countries, reaching a sharp peak of 165 basis points on 7 May. At a momentous weekend summit on 9 May 2010, the European Union agreed to create the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), a special purpose vehicle …nanced by 18

members of the Eurozone to combat the European sovereign debt crisis. Subsequently, on 12 May the Prime Minister, Mr. José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, announced sizeable cuts in the government budget, including a 5% reduction in public sector pay in 2010 and the freezing of public sector pensions in 2011. After a brief fall, the risk premium sharply rose from 95 basis points, when the May budget cuts were announced, to 217 basis points on 16 June 2010. This date marks both the passing of a labor reform decree by the Government and the peak in the risk premium, which fell thereafter and did not surpass that date’s value until November, when the Irish debt crisis erupted. Hence, forced by the …nancial markets’ external threat, the Government abruptly changed its views on the necessity of a labor market reform, and put some more pressure on social partners to reach an agreement. In early February 2010 the Government had issued a set of guidelines for EPL reform to be discussed by the social partners and to be used as the foundation for the reform. Nevertheless, as talks stalled, it went ahead with a reform that followed the same strategy of the previous ones, namely, mildly reducing dismissal costs and relaxing dismissal restrictions under the employment-promotion permanent contracts while doing the opposite for temporary contracts. As to changes in the regulation of collective bargaining, the reform process and the results were similarly meager. After the EPL reform, trade unions called for a general strike on 29 September 2010, which was largely a failure. However, one month later a new Minister of Employment was appointed –a card-carrying member of one of the two main labor unions, who had attended the general strike demonstrations–, with the main goal of restoring the social dialogue. Then, some guidelines for the reform of collective bargaining were issued and the Government waited for the agreement between the social partners on collective bargaining reform. The agreement never came and the Government proceeded again with another mild reform in June 2011 (see below).


Contents of the reforms

At …rst glance, the 2010-2011 reform was quite comprehensive, a¤ecting the following four areas: severance pay, hours reduction, active labor market policies, and collective


bargaining. A summary of the key measures follows. Firstly, in the area of individual dismissals, there were several noticeable changes: 1. In dismissals for economic reasons, current and expected losses or a persistent reduction in revenues were included as causes for fair dismissal. Other, broadlyunderstood, economic reasons –technological, organizational, and productive–were explicitly de…ned for the …rst time. Advance notice was reduced from 30 to 15 days. 2. A new employment-promotion permanent contract was introduced, reducing the group of workers for whom it was not applicable and making applicable to this contract the express dismissal procedure, i.e. maximum severance pay of 33 days’ wages p.y.o.s. to avoid going to court, with no advance notice and no payment of interim wages (previously …rms paid 45 days through a disciplinary dismissal). 3. For temporary contracts, severance pay was raised progressively from 8 days of wages p.y.o.s. to 12 days (to be reached in 2015). 4. The duration of a sequence of temporary contracts of a given worker in the same …rm was capped at 3 years for hitherto unlimited speci…c-work contracts.20 Secondly, in line with the successful experience of the Kurzarbeit programme in Germany, hours reductions were facilitated, by reducing social security contributions on …rms and cancelling the subtraction from workers’entitlements of any unemployment bene…ts received due to hours reductions. Thirdly, in the realm of active labor market policies, the groups of workers eligible for subsidies on job creation were restricted and private placement agencies were authorized for the …rst time. Lastly, regarding collective bargaining, …rms in distress were allowed to opt out of the industry collective-bargain wage level by reaching an agreement with its workers, though the corresponding level had to be achieved again in no more than 3 years. The additional 20

However, in September 2011 the maximum duration extension of all temporary contracts was extended to 4.5 years, until September 2013.


reform of collective bargaining in June 2011 established that …rm-level agreements have precedence over the corresponding industry-wide agreements, though this rule applies only if the latter does not say otherwise. Also, over the subsequent year, agreements that expire without a renewal by consensus being feasible will need to be subject to arbitration (until industry-wide agreements decide on whether this should be the rule).


What kind of reforms?

As mentioned earlier, in our view, labor reform was triggered by external pressure coming from international …nancial markets. We are not the …rst to argue about this channel for reform. Bertola (2010b) indicates that countries su¤ering high public debt are more likely to undertake labor reforms and …nds some empirical evidence weakly supporting this claim. While causation is clear for countries that had to be bailed out, i.e. Greece and Portugal (whose respective Memorandum of Understanding with the ECB-EU-IMF troika include very speci…c labor market reform measures), it is not so apparent for non-bailed out countries. The source of the reform does matter. Since neither the Government nor the social partners were interested in the reform, the kind of reform that was undertaken did not signi…cantly reduce the fundamental insider-outsider divide in the Spanish labor market. Firstly, the reform included measures that labor unions disliked, but it was made more palatable by reducing its scope. Indeed, the two most important institutions generating high and volatile unemployment, but which also bene…t both employers and labor unions, were modi…ed but in a su¢ ciently marginal way that their core was left in place. These are the dual EPL (see Saint-Paul, 2000) and the regulation of collective bargaining (subject to the caveat that current status quo may unravel if the social partners do not reach an agreement to preserve it, which may be in the interest of the employers’ association). Secondly, some of the measures introduced were meant to bene…t insiders, such as the subsidies for reduced hours (as opposed to dismissals). Lastly, some of the measures have been subsequently undone, backtracking on limitations on the chaining of temporary contracts (see the footnote to item 4 in the preceding subsection) and raising the chances


that workers will challenge individual dimissals in court.21 It is still too early to assess the e¤ect of these reforms, though the prospects are far from good. The latest forecasts at the time of writing this paper are that employment may fall again in 2011Q4 (at an annual rate of -1.5%), that unemployment may exceed 5 million at the end of this year, and that bargained wage growth remains at 2.7% while core consumer price in‡ation is around 1.5% and the GDP de‡ator around 2%. In view of these adverse circumstances, in the next section we propose a set of measures of labor market reform that we believe should be undertaken to help reverse the insider-outsider nature of the Spanish labor market, so as to permanently reduce its unemployment rate.


Towards eliminating the insider-outsider divide

As argued in the previous sections, despite a long sequence of unsuccessful reforms at the margin, the very high and persistent segmentation prevailing in the Spanish labor market since the late 1980s is the key factor behind its huge employment and unemployment volatility. Temporary contracts do not only bear the brunt of the adjustment during recessions but they also negatively a¤ect the career developments and labor productivity of temporary workers (typically young, female, and low-skill), who face a low probability of advancing towards a long-term employment relationship. Given these negative e¤ects, clearly illustrated by the evolution of the Spanish labor market since the onset of the Great Recession, there is a growing consensus among academics that more reforms at the margin, like the one approved in 2010-2011, are bound to remain ine¤ective. On the one hand, timid attempts to reduce severance pay for some permanent contracts that are not available for all workers still leave a too high …ring cost gap, as re‡ected by the scarce use of the new employment-promotion contracts. On the other, moving back to the labor market of a few decades ago by severely penalizing the use of temporary contracts while keeping the current levels of EPL for permanent contracts is not a viable option either. This would just prevent job creation in the subsequent recovery and make the labor market uniformly much more rigid. Thus, a more radical approach 21

In the October 2011 law regulating the social jurisdiction.


is needed to reduce the …ring cost gap between permanent and temporary workers, thus paving the way to a quality job-rich recovery and, foremost, to a better balance between ‡exibility and social protection. More speci…cally, new regulations need to be introduced so as to provide a viable alternative for …rms to the overuse of temporary contracts, with the key goal of eliminating the detrimental e¤ects of the excessive churning of temporary workers on job stability, training, and future career prospects.


A single open-ended contract

In parallel with a few other similar policy initiatives in Europe, a manifesto signed by 100 academic economists, see Andrés et al. (2009), was launched in Spain defending the idea of eliminating the …ring cost gap once and for all.22 To achieve this goal, a key policy advice in this proposal is the introduction of a single open-ended contract (SOEC hereafter) for new hires, at the same time that temporary contracts –with the exception of replacement contracts for maternity or sickness/disability leaves– are abolished. The key feature of SOEC is that it has no ex-ante time limit (unlike …xed-term contracts) and that severance payments smoothly increase with seniority, instead of having the same indemnity per year of service applying from the …rst day after the end of a short probation period (unlike current open-ended contracts). In this fashion, and in contrast with the current regulation of permanent contracts, the SOEC provides a su¢ ciently long entry phase and a smooth rise in protection as job tenure increases. The rationale for this gradually increasing pro…le of severance pay is that the longer a worker stays in a given …rm, the larger is her/his loss of speci…c human capital, as well as the psychological costs su¤ered in case of dismissal.23 A substantial advantage of SOEC over the current dual EPL regulation is that it drastically reduces the marginal cost, in term of expected severance pay, faced by employers when deciding whether to upgrade expiring temporary contracts into permanent ones. This large reduction in the marginal cost of contract extensions (of 2 or 3 days’ wages 22

Among these proposals are those of Blanchard and Tirole (2003) and Cahuc and Kramarz (2004) for France, Boeri and Garibaldi (2008) and Ichino et al. (2009) for Italy, and Bentolila et al. (2008) for Spain. 23 See Blanchard and Tirole (2003).


p.y.o.s. until a reasonable steady value is reached after 10 years, say) is likely to prevent the massive redundancies and huge turnover of temporary workers that have taken place in the last two recessions under the current regulation. The reason is that the entry phase with low …ring costs will encourage job creation and reduce ine¢ cient churning of temporary workers, while the very gradual increase in severance pay will foster longer job durations without necessarily harming employers, as uncertainty about the quality of job matches entails a much lower cost. As discussed below, even if the expected compensation p.y.o.s. turns out to be to be lower under the SOEC than under current EPL rules, it is quite plausible that the longer job tenure induced by the fall in the …ring cost gap will increase the total expected compensation received by dismissed workers, echoing a La¤er curve e¤ect. To illustrate these ideas, let us consider a Spanish worker with a prototypical job tenure of 10 years, where the …rst 2 years are under a temporary contract and the remaining 8 years under a permanent one. Figure 9 depicts the marginal severance pay in case of dismissal up to 10 years working at the same …rm under current EPL regulations with the rights that would be provided by a conceivable speci…cation of a SOEC. The latter (labeled as SOEC 12-36 hereafter) starts with 12 days’wages p.y.o.s. and grows by 2 days per year to a maximum of 36 days’wages, so that compensation is incremental, with a maximum of 24 months’wages. Under current regulations, since …ring costs for a temporary contract entails 8 days’ wages p.y.o.s., while those of a permanent contract typically amount to 45 days’wages p.y.o.s. (after Law 45/2002), the expected total dismissal cost to the …rm would be 376 days’ wages (=2 8 + 8 45). The alternative option for the …rm would be to use …ve temporary contracts in sequence (o¤ered to di¤erent workers) instead of converting the temporary contract into a permanent one after the …rst two years. In this case, the …rm would pay 80 days’wages (=8 10). Thus, the gap in expected …ring costs for the …rm of contract conversion amounts to 296 days’ wages (=376-80), i.e. slightly more than 80% of a yearly wage. In contrast, under SOEC 12-36, the expected total severance pay would be 210 days’ wages (=12+14+...+30), so that the …ring cost gap would fall to only 130 days’wages (=210-80). This amounts to a reduction of 56% vis-


à-vis the current regulation, which is bound to increase job creation and job duration signi…cantly, as well as to reduce job destruction. The combined e¤ect of these favorable outcomes should lead to a noticeable reduction in unemployment.


Evaluating the e¤ects of introducing a single open-ended contract in Spain

There have been a few papers quantifying the above-mentioned implications of the SOEC proposal that we summarize in what follows. The …rst strand of this literature relies on calibrating search and matching models of the labor market, along the lines of Mortensen and Pissarides’(1994) classical model with endogenous job creation and job destruction, but extended to allow for the existence of temporary and permanent contracts entailing very di¤erent dismissal costs.24 Bentolila et al. (2011) explore what proportion of the much larger increase in Spanish than in French unemployment during the Great Recession is due to the larger …ring cost gap in Spain than in France. They focus on a comparison of these two neighboring countries not only because they share quite similar labor market institutions, including the use of temporary contracts, but also because their unemployment rates just before crisis were almost identical (around 8% in 2007). Yet, while the unemployment rate in France has only increased by 2 percentage points (pp) by the end of 2009, it shot up to 19% in Spain over that period (21% nowadays). As argued by these authors, the fact that both countries exhibit similar overall indexes of strictness in EPL according to the well-known OECD (2004) rankings, is due to how these indexes are constructed, i.e. on the basis of legal regulations and not on their implementation. Indeed, when analyzing the enforcement of the legislation, they …nd that de facto EPL of temporary jobs is much weaker in Spain than in France, whereas the opposite holds for regular permanent jobs. Further, to estimate the relevant EPL gap in each country, they adopt the conservative view that what matters in order to measure the e¤ects of …ring costs on employment is not legal severance pay per se, which is a transfer from the …rm to the worker and may 24

This generalization is inspired by Blanchard and Landier (2002) and Cahuc and Postel-Vinay (2002), whiich are the …rst papers to allow for dual contracts in search and matching models.


therefore be compensated for in the wage bargain.25 Rather, what matter are other costs generated by third agents, like labor courts and labor authorities, which cannot be appropriated by …rms and workers and therefore cannot be neutralized through wage bargaining. These are the so-called red tape costs, which they estimate to be 50% higher in Spain than in France. In view of this large …ring cost gap, the research question they address is by how much would Spanish unemployment have been reduced during the Great Recession, relative to its actual rise, had Spain adopted the lower French EPL gap before the start of the slump, instead of keeping its own EPL regulations. Their strategy is to calibrate the above-mentioned analytical model to match the main stylized facts (average ‡ows and stocks) in the French and Spanish labor markets before the recession (2005-2007). Then, keeping invariant the calibrated parameters in this …rst stage, they proceed to match the new stylized facts during the recession (2008-2009), by allowing only for an adverse aggregate productivity shock and, in Spain, a negative reallocation shock. These two shocks are meant to capture, respectively, the severity of the recession and the increase in mismatch induced by the collapse of the construction industry as a result of the credit crunch. Once the model is well calibrated in both the good and bad state, they run a counterfactual simulation during the recession (imposing the same adverse shocks estimated before) where the Spanish EPL gap is replaced by the much lower French gap. Their main …nding is that, with the French EPL gap and taking into account its indirect e¤ect on reducing mismatch, Spanish unemployment would have increased by 45% less than what it actually rose (i.e. from 8% to 14%, rather than to 19%). Further, a similar counterfactual simulation during the preceding expansionary period yields that unemployment would have been 2 pp lower during 2005-2007, i.e. 6% rather than 8%. Overall, these results indicate that facilitating the widespread use of ‡exible temporary contracts is more likely to raise unemployment on average over the business cycle in labor markets already regulated by rather stringent permanent job security provisions due to the ine¢ cient turnover of temporary workers. 25

See Lazear (1990).


A related paper is Costain et al. (2010), which addresses the issue of high unemployment volatility in strongly dual labor markets. Rather than focusing a single event, like Bentolila et al. (2011) do with the Great Recession, these authors study labor market dynamics over the business cycle following a sequence of auto-correlated, match-speci…c productivity shocks. After calibrating a similar search and matching model with permanent and temporary contracts to the Spanish labor market during 2001-2008, they compare the volatility of unemployment under two alternative scenarios regarding …ring costs: under the current, dual EPL and under a uni…ed labor market with a single contract where …ring costs are equal to the average severance pay in the dual labor market (but where the …ring cost does not increase with job tenure). Their main …nding is that the unemployment rate in the dual labor market ‡uctuates 21% more than in the uni…ed case. The intuition behind this result is that while new permanent jobs must have relatively high productivity (to compensate …rms for future high severance pay), in temporary jobs with low or no dismissal costs …rms are instead willing to hire workers with lower productivity. Hence, the latter jobs become very fragile as soon as there is an adverse shock. In other words, the stock of fragile jobs accumulates rapidly in expansions and becomes immediately destroyed when a recession hits. According to these results, introducing a single contract would unambiguously reduce volatility but, by hampering the hiring of low productivity workers, it would also increase unemployment by 2 pp (from 10% to 12% during the calibration period). Their simulations show that, in order to avoid this rise in unemployment, average …ring costs would have to fall by 60% over the sample period. Interestingly, as discussed above, this reduction in average …ring costs turns out to be quite similar to the one implied by the introduction of SOEC 12-36. The quantitative evaluation of the e¤ects of the SOEC 12-36 proposal is directly addressed in this type of search and matching models by García Pérez and Osuna (2011), which analyzes the transition between the existing dual EPL and this speci…c design of SOEC. They focus not only on simulating the e¤ects of this change of regulations on unemployment but also on how this change would have a¤ected workers’job tenures over


the period 1998-2009, which comprises both a long expansionary phase and the subsequent abrupt recession. Their strategy is similar to the one used in the previous two papers: calibrate the parameters of the model to match the main stylized facts of the Spanish labor market over the chosen period and then run counterfactual simulations under SOEC 1236. Their results show not only that the unemployment rate would be 3 pp lower under the single contract but, more importantly, that the number of workers with job tenure below one year would be almost 25% lower than under current EPL, while the number of workers with tenure longer than three years would become 15% higher under SOEC 12-36. The intuition for these results in again similar to the one discussed above: under the latter contract, the probability of being …red in contracts with tenure below four years is almost halved, because …rms are much less reluctant than before to destroy jobs since they are costlier (12 days’wages p.y.o.s. v. 8 days’wages p.y.o.s.) and because the jump in severance pay (from 8 to 45 days’wages) has been replaced by a much smoother gap (2 days for each year the contract is extended, up to an upper bound of 36 days’wages). A second strand of this literature uses a di¤erent simulation approach to evaluate some other relevant consequences of the introduction of SOEC 12-36, as well as those of other alternatives, like a combination of a single contract and a capitalization fund for dismissals, in line with the so-called Austrian model. The idea behind this fund is that, rather than paying a statutory severance pay to the worker at the termination of a labor relationship, …rms deposit every month a given (small) amount of days of salary for all their workforce, to be subtracted from employer social security contributions, into a sort of private fund for every worker, that they can use throughout their working life in case of dismissal, relocation, engagement in educational activities or even upon retirement. The idea is that a worker’s fund does not disappear simply because the worker changes jobs –as happens with current EPL–and it therefore fosters worker mobility. In particular Conde-Ruiz et al. (2011) focus on the e¤ects of introducing two alternative single contract schemes on the expected average severance paid by …rms and received by di¤erent types of workers after 10 years, relative to what they would respectively pay and receive under the status quo.


The …rst scheme is SOEC 12-36, while the second scheme is a combination of a SOEC entailing lower …ring costs, increasing from 12 to 24 days’wages in 7 years, with a capitalization fund of 3 days’ wages per year (SOEC 12-24 +F3), both with a maximum entitlement of two years’ wages. To simulate these e¤ects, they use information at the individual level on wages, hiring, …ring, and contract conversion rates for unemployed, temporary, and permanent workers over their working life, using a 4% random sample of the Spanish social security registers for 2009.26 The paths arising from these rates are then projected over the next decade to evaluate the e¤ect of alternative EPL regulations. Speci…cally, drawing from the results about the endogenously determined job creation, job destruction, and contract conversion rates obtained by Costain et al. (2010) and García Pérez and Osuna (2011) in their counterfactual simulations of general equilibrium search and matching models, it is assumed that the …ring rate under SOEC will be on average 60% lower than those observed for temporary workers with less than 4 years of job tenure and 35% higher for permanent workers with job tenure above 4 years. The latter is assumed to capture the potential adverse e¤ect of a SOEC reform exclusively applied to new workers (i.e. not retroactively) on workers with old permanent contracts, through a replacement of these workers –entitled to high …ring costs– by new contracts under the cheaper SOEC. The main …nding of these (partial equilibrium) models is that SOEC 12-24+ F3 provides on average 15% higher severance pay for workers than under the status quo and 13% more than under a pure SOEC 12-36, while the average …ring cost to …rms over the 10 year period is more or less the same. Thus, the mixed proposal of a SOEC and a capitalization fund seems to be a more bene…cial alternative in order to reduce the degree of segmentation in the Spanish labor market via its e¤ects on job duration, job mobility, and greater incentives to invest in human capital.


Other policy proposals

A SOEC would not be the cure-all for the Spanish labor market. The extremely high unemployment rates that have been reached are the result of a systemic failure, involving 26

The database is the Continuous Sample of Working Lives (Muestra Continua de Vidas Laborales, Ministerio de Trabajo y Seguridad Social, 2002-2009).


also the structure of collective bargaining, unemployment bene…ts, and active labor market policies. In this section we brie‡y review appropriate lines of reform in those areas. Among the many government policies that can a¤ect wage developments (public sector wages, minimum wages, labor taxation, etc.), the regulation of collective bargaining is probably the one having the strongest bearing on labor cost developments. The coverage of collective bargains, the level at which wages are set, the extension of bargained wages to workers and …rms outside the scope of an agreement, the existence of coordination mechanisms or the application of wage indexation clauses are clearly determined by the social partners. But these features are very strongly in‡uenced by both labor legislation and the intervention of governments in the social dialogue. As indicated in Section 3, empirical studies reveal little real wage adjustment to unemployment or to productivity changes. This yields a signi…cant increases in equilibrium unemployment, as has been argued by Jimeno and Thomas (2011), using a calibrated version of a Mortensen-Pissarides model with heterogenous …rms. They also show that allowing for opting-out of industry-wide collective bargaining agreements would reduce unemployment to the same level achieved under e¢ cient …rm-level bargaining without major changes in either average wages or wage inequality. Real wage rigidity has two important consequences in the current situation. First, regarding the employment impact of the crisis, the lack of wage adjustment increases job destruction. Secondly, looking ahead, the requirements for restoring output and employment growth, namely nominal adjustment, the closing of the competitiveness gap, and the reallocation of resources from the non-tradable to the tradable sector, and all are harder to implement. Hence, regulatory reforms should a¤ect collective bargaining practices in order to bring wages more in line with productivity changes. This requires giving more scope to …rmlevel bargaining, even for those …rms within the coverage of industry-wide agreements, and limiting the use of wage indexation rules. As indicated in Section 5, the labor reforms of June 2010 and June 2011 did introduce eased the opt-out of industry agreements and established …rm-level agreements as the default ones. However, by giving labor unions and the employers’association an e¤ective veto over this change, it is not clear whether


these changes will deliver a signi…cant increase in the degree of decentralization. We strongly believe that the SOEC and making opting-out of sectorial collective bargaining truly operational would eliminate the insider-outsider divide, and that this would bring very positive consequences in terms of job creation, giving scope to most-needed productivity gains and, last but not least, reducing earnings inequality among Spanish workers. The two fundamental measures that we advocate would surely need further re…nements and being complemented by others geared towards reducing long-term unemployment, such as introducing some degree of experience-rating in unemployment bene…ts and improving the e¤ectiveness of active labor market policies, by means of proper evaluation of their e¤ects with …nancial consequences for the agencies in charge of the administration of those policies.27



The Spanish economy is currently in a dire situation. Reducing the indebtedness of the private and public sectors is urgent, as external …nancial conditions are very unfavorable. As monetary policy, within the Monetary Union, is out of domestic control, and …scal policy is constrained by the …nancial conditions, supply policies should take the most prominent role in the policy agenda. It is urgent to increase productivity growth, while at the same time creating jobs, so as to make the reduction of indebtedness less painful in terms of consumption, to domestically provide new funds for investment, and to restore the competitiveness lost since the access to the EMU. Labor market reforms are key to restart productivity growth. We do not believe that they are also su¢ cient, as there are many other areas in which structural reforms should be contemplated. Two important points that policy-makers need to consider are: 1. Labor market reforms and product market reforms ease the needed for …scal consolidation process (see Gavilán et al., 2010). Reducing the insider-outsider divide and lowering barriers to competition in the product market would substantially increase job creation and productivity growth, so that …scal revenues would be larger and public 27

See Andrés et al. (2009) for other proposals.


de…cits and debt could be further reduced with a lower cost in terms of consumption. 2. Be aware of reform fatigue. As shown above, there have been far too many unsuccessful and contradictory labor market reforms. The new labor market reform will have to be implemented in the context of a very intense …scal retrenchment, and with the public opinion being very critical of the poor management of the consequences of the crisis so far. In this context, it is crucial that the reform has clear goals, be communicated clearly to the public opinion, and being perceived as equitable. The task is not easy, but its time has come.


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[14] Blanchard, O. J. and J. Tirole (2003), “Contours of Employment Protection Reform”, MIT Department of Economics Working Paper 03-35. [15] Boeri (2011), “Institutional Reforms and Dualism in European Labor Markets”, in O. Ashenfelter and D. Card (eds.), Handbook of Labor Economics, Vol. 4b, North Holland, Amsterdam, 1173-1236. [16] Boeri T. and P. Garibaldi P. (2008), Un Nuovo Contratto per Tutti, Chiarelettere, Torino. [17] Burda, M. and J. Hunt (2011), “What Explains the German Labor Market Miracle in the Great Recession?”, IZA Discussion Paper 5800. [18] Cahuc. P. and F. Kramarz (2004), De la précarité à la mobilité, vers une sécurité sociale professionnelle, Rapport pour le Ministre de l’Economie et des Finances, La documentation Française, available at [19] Cahuc, P. and F. Postel-Vinay (2002), “Temporary Jobs, Employment Protection and Labor Market Performance”, Labor Economics 9, 63-91. [20] Carrasco, R., J. F. Jimeno, and A. C. Ortega (2011), “The E¤ect of Immigration on the Labor Market Performance of Native-Born Workers: Some Evidence for Spain”, Journal of Population Economics 21, 627-648. [21] Casado, J.M., C. Fernandez-Vidaurreta, and J. F. Jimeno (2011): “Labour Market Flows in the European Union”, mimeo, Banco de España. [22] Conde Ruiz, J. I., F. Felgueroso, and J. I. García Pérez (2011), "Reforma Laboral 2010: Una primera evaluación y propuestas de mejora”, Fedea Working Paper 012011. [23] Costain, J., Juan F. Jimeno, and Carlos Thomas (2010), “Employment Fluctuations in a Dual Labor Market”, Banco de España Working Paper 1013: [24] Dolado, J., F. Felgueroso, and M. Jansen (2010), “El con‡icto entre la demanda de ‡exibilidad laboral y la resistencia a la reforma del mercado de trabajo en España”, Papeles de Economía Española 124, 84-97. [25] Dolado, J. J., C. Garcia-Serrano, and J. F. Jimeno (2002), "Drawing Lessons From The Boom of Temporary Jobs In Spain”, Economic Journal 112, F270-F295. [26] Duval, R. and J. Elmeskov (2005), “The E¤ects of EMU on Structural Reforms in Labour and Product Markets”, OECD Economics Department Working Paper 438.


[27] Dolado, J. J., S. Ortigueira and R. Stucchi (2011), “Work Practices in a Two-tier Labour Market: Does the Firing-cost Gap a¤ect TFP Growth in Spanish Manufacturing Firms?”, mimeo, Universidad Carlos III. [28] European Comission (2011): “Labour Market Developments in Europe, 2011”, European Economy 2/2011. Directorate-General for Economic and Financial A¤airs, European Commission. [29] García Pérez, J. I. and V. Osuna (2011), “The E¤ects of Introducing a Single Openended Contract in the Spanish Labour Market”, mimeo, Universidad Pablo de Olavide. [30] García Pérez, J. I. and Y. F. Rebollo Sanz (2009), “Do Wage Subsidies A¤ect the Subsequent Employment Stability of Permanent Workers?: The Case of Spain”, Moneda y Crédito 228, 65-102. [31] Gavilán, A., P. Hernández de Cos, J.F. Jimeno, and J.A. Rojas (2011): “Fiscal Policy, Structural Reforms and External Imbalances: A Quantitative Evaluation for Spain”, Banco de España, Working Paper 1107. [32] Høj, J., V. Galasso, G. Nicoletti, and T.-T. Dang (2006), “The Political Economy of Structural Reform”, OECD Economics Department Working Paper 501. [33] Ichino, P. et al. (2009), “Disegno di Legge per la Transizione a un Regime di Flexicurity, n. 1481”, 25 March. [34] International Monetary Fund (2010), World Economic Outlook. Rebalancing Growth, April. [35] Jimeno, J.F. and C. Thomas (2011), “Collective Bargaining, Firm Heterogeneity and Unemployment”, mimeo, Banco de España. [36] Jimeno, J.F. and L. Toharia (1996), “E¤ort, Absenteeism, and Fixed Term Employment Contracts”, Revista Española de Economía, 13, 105-119. [37] Lazear, E.(1990), “Job Security Provisions and Employment”, Quarterly Journal of Economics, 105, 699-726. [38] Lindbeck, A. and D. J. Snower (1984), “Involuntary Unemployment as an InsiderOutsider Dilemma”, Institute for International Economic Studies Seminar Paper 309. [39] Lindbeck, Assar, and Dennis J. Snower (1988), The Insider-Outsider Theory of Employment and Unemployment, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.


[40] Mortensen, D. T. and C. A. Pissarides (1994), “Job Creation and Job Destruction in the Theory of Unemployment”, Review of Economic Studies 61, 397-415. [41] Saint-Paul, G. (2000), The Political Economy of Labour Market Institutions, Oxford University Press, Oxford. [42] Saint-Paul, G. (2002), “Macroeconomic Fluctuations and the Timing of Labour Market Reforms”, CEPR Working Paper 3646. [43] Visser, J. (2011), “ICTWSS: Database on Institutional Characteristics of Trade Unions, Wage Setting, State Intervention and Social Pacts in 34 countries between 1960 and 2007”, Version 3, Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Studies (


Table 1. Accounting for changes in the unemployment rate during the Great Recession, 2008Q1-2009Q4 (%)

Unemployment rate Output Productivity Hours/worker Labor force

u Y =Y (Y =H)=(Y =H) (H=N )=(H=N ) LF=LF




6.1 -2.4 6.0 -2.2 -0.1

-0.4 -5.4 -3.0 -2.6 -0.2

11.2 -5.0 2.7 1.8 1.7

Notes: Log-points. Data for the US and Germany are from Burda and Hunt (2011). For Spain, data are from the Quarterly National Accounts (

Table 2. Employment protection legislation reforms of speci…c aspects (% of total) Period

Years with reform

Flexibility increasing

France 1982-2007 Germany 1985-2007 Italy 1982-2007 Average:

56 50 56 54

68 72 68 69

32 39 32 35

18 22 18 19

44 36 44 41













Structural Complete


Source: Own computations with Fondazione Rodolfo DeBenedetti–IZA Social Reforms Database (, see Boeri (2011).


Table 3. Attitudes towards labor market reform (% of respondents) Spain EU15 Population 16 years old and over 16-24 years old 45-54 years old 55-64 years old

61.2 64.9 60.1 58.8

71.2 71.2 69.4 68.6

Employed (16-64 years old) Expect to keep their jobs in near future Do not expect to keep their jobs in near future

57.2 61.7

69.4 70.0

Non-employed (16-64 years old) Lost their jobs during the crisis Did not lose their jobs during the crisis

70.3 60.0

73.5 70.5

Current labor status (16-64 years old) Self employed/Entrepreneurs Managers Salaried professionals Other skilled employees Low-skill employees Unemployed

67.2 62.2 65.3 51.0 69.3 69.6

77.4 68.5 73.6 67.3 71.2 72.6

Note: The table shows the percentage share of respondents who agree with the statement: “Work contracts should become more ‡exible to encourage job creation”, Special Eurobarometer 316 (European Employment and Social Policy), May-June 2009 ( /eb_special_320_300_en.htm). Source: Dolado et al. (2010).


Figure 1: Unemployment rate in Spain and France (harmonised de…nitions, %)


Figure 2: Fall in GDP and increase in the unemployment rate in selected countries (2008Q2-2009Q2)

Figure 3: Unemployment change and residential price in‡ation in EU countries


Figure 4: Employment growth (excluding construction) and residential price in‡ation in EU countries

Figure 5: Temporary employment share by age group (2005Q1-2007Q3)


Figure 6: Perceptions of job insecurity by age group in Spain (%)

Figure 7: Outsiders as a share of employees and the unemployed in Spain (%)


Figure 8: Permanent and temporary employment growth in Spain (annual change, %)

Figure 9: Marginal severance pay in dual EPL and in SOEC 12-36



Reforming an Insider-Outsider Labor Market: The Spanish - IZA

SERIES PAPER DISCUSSION IZA DP No. 6186 Reforming an Insider-Outsider Labor Market: The Spanish Experience Samuel Bentolila Juan J. Dolado Juan F. J...

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