IMF Institute for Capacity Development

Inclusive Growth Policies

L-8. Fiscal Policy and Employment
Davide Furceri

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Introduction and stylized facts
Policies to boost labor demand
Policies to boost labor supply

Labor Market – Conceptual Framework

MILES framework, World Bank (2007, 2009)

Boosting Employment
For countries faced with weak labor demand in

the wake of a large output shock, policies that
target labor demand are more efficient
Over the longer term, other active labor market
programs (ALMPs) improve the matching of labor
supply and demand and reduce labor market
In the short term, policies to increase labor
demand are usually more effective in increasing
employment than policies that increase supply
In the medium term, both demand-side and
supply-side policies can increase employment
and output

Boosting Employment Empirical evidence supports the view that fiscal policies have a significant impact on employment while research on the effects of institutions is less conclusive Effect of Fiscal Policies and Institutions on Structural Unemployment Source: IMF staff analysis based on reviews in OECD (2006) and recent studies 5 .

payroll or social insurance taxes)  short-time work (work sharing) schemes  public works programs 6 .. which included  credit to small and medium enterprises (SMEs)  wage subsidies for existing and new jobs  reductions in non-wage labor costs (e.g. most advanced and emerging economies have introduced or expanded programs to support labor demand.Recent Job Creation Measures Since the onset of the global economic crisis.

Recent Job Creation Measures There has also been a strong expansion of other active labor market programs (ALMPs) that improve the matching of labor supply and demand such as training and job assistance The share of advanced economies introducing or expanding ALMPs is nearly 80 percent. although the effectiveness of these programs may be limited by implementation capacity 7 . mostly oriented toward improving training and job search/intermediation Most emerging economies (over 60 percent) have also expanded ALMPs.

2009b. 2011h. By Type of Program Sources: IMF staff. OECD (2009. 2009c). World Bank (2011a. 2011i).Recent Job Creation Measures Shares of Advanced and Emerging Economies Introducing Labor Demand and Active Labor Market Programs During 2008-2010. 2011g. and EC databases. 8 . 2011f. EC (2009a. based on data from Robalino and others (forthcoming). 2010. 2011b).

such as VAT or excises: can have much the same (but less direct) effect by 9 reducing real wages . and (2) the structure of social benefit schemes Taxes  Taxes on labor (personal income taxes and social security contributions): directly reduce LD by driving up labor costs and reduce LS by lowering after-tax wages  Corporate taxes: can affect employment by reducing investment and production. and by reducing LS to the extent that firms pass on these taxes to employees in the form of lower wages  Final consumption taxes.Fiscal Policies that Can Affect Labor Markets Taxes and Social Benefits Key areas: (1) design of tax systems.

job search. and job acceptance behavior  Social assistance: can reduce work incentives. and (2) the structure of social benefit schemes Social Benefits Government spending on pensions and welfare benefits (including family. especially if benefits are withdrawn as earnings rise 10 . unemployment-related.Fiscal Policies that Can Affect Labor Markets Taxes and Social Benefits Key areas: design of (1) tax systems. and social assistance benefits)  Availability of pensions: affects retirement decisions  Availability of unemployment benefits: affects labor force participation.

corporate income tax revenue (left) expanded due to a broadening of tax bases.Fiscal Policies that Can Affect Labor Markets Taxes and Social Benefits Tax to GDP Ratios. • Despite lowering rates. and revenue from general sales taxes (right) increased Sources: IMF tax Revenue Database 11 . while social security contributions (right) rose steadily in all regions. but increased in emerging. 1980–2010 • Personal income tax revenue (left) has declined in advanced economies.

and Mexico 12 . Brazil. Eurostat. and ILO databases.Fiscal Policies that Can Affect Labor Markets Taxes and Social Benefits Social Benefits. IMF. while welfare spending (right) has fluctuated with economic conditions. particularly in European countries. Sources: OECD. ECLAC. Note : For welfare spending. Egypt. other emerging comprises Argentina. 1970–2010 Public pension spending (left) has continued to increase. Chile.

Policies to Boost Labor Demand 13 .

2004) However. over time.Reducing labor taxes Reductions in labor taxes can help stimulate labor demand Empirical estimates for advanced economies suggest that the price elasticity of labor demand is close to −1 (Cahuc and Zylberberg. increased labor demand would feed into higher wages and the beneficial effects on employment would be mitigated 14 .

Reducing labor taxes Reductions in non-wage labor costs are most effective if targeted to low-wage earners Empirical evidence suggests that the demand for low-skilled labor is relatively elastic (Hammermesh. targeted tax relief could take the form of a threshold below which no or lower social contributions are levied 15 . 1993) and therefore reacts more strongly to policy measures Targeted reductions can relax minimum-wage constraints in countries where high labor costs limit job openings for low-skilled workers For example.

Tax Shifts A revenue-neutral shift from labor to consumption taxes could boost labor demand For instance. reductions in employer social security contributions financed by higher consumption taxes (or higher recurrent property taxes) can raise labor demand by lowering (non-wage) labor costs The long-term employment effects of tax shifts depend on the extent to which the tax burden is shifted away from labor income and onto other incomes A shift from social contributions to consumption taxes may increase inequality and require offsetting measures 16 .

most empirical studies suggest that labor demand expands 17 .Business tax incentives Reductions in business taxes can boost labor demand but are likely to favor more skilled workers Reductions in the effective tax rate on business income have two opposing effects:  substitution from labor to capital reduces labor demand  higher investment raises output—including over the longer term—and therefore labor demand On balance.

reducing corporate taxes might have a relatively weaker effect on labor demand for low-skilled workers 18 . As substitution between capital and labor tends to be easiest for low-skilled labor. Blanchard. 1994.Business tax incentives Business tax relief can ease financing constraints for firms relying on retained earnings: further raising investment These effects are consistent with the finding that reductions in the cost of capital reduce unemployment (Phelps. 1997).

which would not be viable without them They are especially effective in improving youth employment They are generally more effective if they are targeted to workers rather than firms 19 .Expenditures Hiring and wage subsidies can be effective in boosting employment if appropriately targeted These subsidies are usually more effective when targeted to workers for low-wage jobs.

Expenditures Public works programs can also be effective in increasing employment in the short run This was an important component of the policy response in emerging economies to address food and fuel price shocks and the global financial crisis But should be phased out as economic activity recovers The net employment impact of these programs is enhanced by offering employment at low wages. thus encouraging self-selection by the unemployed 20 .

Expenditures Temporary public-sector employment programs are not cost-effective and risk permanent increases in the size of the public sector Skills acquired in the public sector are often not transferable to the private sector Governments generally face strong political pressure to transform temporary jobs into permanent positions A large public sector could hamper private sector employment 21 .

Policies to Increase Demand for Female Labor Despite significant progress Awareness of Laws Prohibiting Gender-ba Discrimination When Hiring in advanced market Inmost OECD countries. based on European Commission (200 22 . less than 50 percent of the populatio economies. gender-based discrimination persists Increasing the awareness of legal rights to equal treatment Providing the right incentives Empowering national equality bodies to conduct formal investigations Source: OECD (2008). evidence of are aware of anti-discrimination laws for the hiring process.

Policies to Boost Labor SUPPLY Improving Job Matching 23 .

as it takes time for people to adjust their working hours or participation choices  policies that increase labor supply require wages to adjust in order to actually raise employment (wage adjustments are rigid)  the degree to which increases in labor supply are absorbed by higher demand also depends on the pace of economic growth 24 . while policies that improve job matching are needed also in the short term The effectiveness of policies will depend on the flexibility of both factor and product markets Policies to boost labor supply usually have a gradual effect.Labor Supply Adjustments Policies to boost labor supply are generally desirable in the medium and long term.

and product markets.Labor Supply Adjustments All these adjustments depend on the functioning of labor. and product markets may be helpful as labor supply expands 25 . capital. capital. which differs across countries In the United States. 2009) Complementary reforms in labor. employment tends to be more responsive to increases in labor force participation rates than in Europe (Wasmer. for example.

reflecting the progressivity of most income 26 . June 2011 • High average tax wedges reflect total taxes over total earnings and matter for incentives for labor market participation (extensive margin) • Marginal tax wedges are generally higher than average tax wedges.Taxation  A smaller labor tax wedge can significantly raise labor supply and employment over the medium and longer term  High marginal tax wedges reflect taxes on additional earnings and are important for incentives to work longer hours (intensive margin) Tax Wedge and Hours Worked per WorkingAge Person (2010) Source: Fiscal Monitor update.

reflecting progression in the income tax schedules.Taxation Marginal tax wedges typically exceed average tax wedges (left). Secondary earners of a working spouse face higher tax wedges than single earners with the same income (right). Source: IMF Staff calculations and OECD 27 .

even when other tax rates increase to finance such relief Empirical studies point to significant differences in labor supply elasticities between groups Targeting tax relief for groups featuring the highest elasticities may reduce distortions in labor supply 28 .Targeted Tax Relief Tax relief targeted to specific groups can stimulate labor supply.

Targeted Tax Relief Women/secondary earners: Female labor supply is more responsive to taxes than male labor supply  Tax relief for women would likely elicit a positive net supply response. even when financed by higher taxes on men Older workers: Older workers are indeed found to be more sensitive to financial incentives than younger workers  Lower labor tax rates for older workers can increase incentives for them to remain in the labor force―although this also raises equity issues as high-income workers generally work longer Low-skilled workers: Labor supply elasticities for low-skilled men are larger than for high-skilled men  This provides a rationale for targeted tax credits for low-wage earners 29 .

1990-2011 30 . but remain high in most regions Variations in the gender gap are significant even among OECD countries Female Labor Force Participation (as a Percent of the Female Population Age 15+).Female Labor Force participation Average FLFP remains low at around 50 percent. with levels and trends varying across regions Differences between male and female participation rates have narrowed.

including among women Properly designed family benefits can help support female FLFP Reform of child support and other social benefits could increase the incentives to work Better access to comprehensive. and highquality child care frees up women’s time for formal employment 31 .Policies to Increase FLFP Replacing family income taxation with individual income taxation would boost FLFP Tax credits or benefits for low-wage earners can be used to stimulate labor force participation. affordable.

Policies to Increase FLFP-Korea Example 32 .

Policies to Increase FLFP-Korea Example Computing gain from reforms g=b(I_B-I_K) g= gain for each indicator I_B= level of the indicator for benchmark country I_K=level of indicator for Korea 33 .

Policies to Increase FLFP-Korea Example 34 .

Policies to Increase FLFP-Korea Example 35 .

a 10 percentage point higher benefit replacement rate would result in a 1 percentage point higher structural 36 .Social Benefits Greater emphasis on ALMPs can reduce unemployment by diminishing the labor supply disincentives inherent in “passive” unemployment benefits Traditionally. social insurance benefits (unemployment and disability benefits) are automatically provided once a person becomes unemployed Such “passive” benefits dilute incentives to return to employment In OECD countries. for example.

” OECD Tax Policy Studies 37 .Social Benefits Labor taxes and means-tested benefit systems combine to generate large work disincentives in many advanced and some emerging economies Source: “Taxation and Employment.

Social Benefits Reforms There is substantial scope to redesign social benefits rules to strengthen incentives to participate in the labor force and increase labor supply  tightening eligibility criteria  reducing the duration of benefits  decreasing benefit levels Reforms should also be designed so as to minimize the trade-off between  addressing moral hazard created by social benefits (which reduces labor supply incentives)  protecting individuals and families from adverse 38 shocks to their incomes and consumption .

39 .Social Benefits Reforms Strict eligibility criteria are important to provide incentives to remain in the labor force Reducing the duration and level of social benefits—where these are high— can increase work incentives Some advanced economies have high unemployment benefits and provide them for long time periods Source: OECD database.

Pension Benefits In many countries. insufficient adjustment of pension benefits means that it is financially beneficial to retire as early as possible The effective retirement age is well below the official retirement age This implicit tax on continued work Public pension systems provide strong incentives for the elderly males (left) and females (right) to retire as early as possible Source: 40 .

in particular in countries with a large gap in the retirement ages of women and men  The latter reaches up to five years in several OECD countries.Pension Benefits  Reforms of the pension system could also be considered. 2011 (Number of years) Source: OECD 41 . despite women’s higher life expectancy Official Age of Retirement in OECD Countries.

Pension Benefits 42 .

Summary Fiscal Policy reforms 43 .

Summary: Fiscal Policy Reforms to Reduce Unemployment 44 .

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