Technical Change and Unemployment: Policy Responses and Distributional Considerations
Athens University of Economics and Business - Department of International and European Economic Studies; CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute for Economic Research)
McMaster University - Department of Economics
CESifo Working Paper Series No. 710
We analyze some macroeconomic implications that follow from the fact that people tend to consume higher-quality goods as their incomes rise. The model involves two sectors: one producing a homogeneous good and the other producing a product with variable levels of quality. Both sectors use skilled and unskilled labour, but higher quality varieties of the differentiated good are more skilled-labour intensive. The skilled-to-unskilled wage ratio is fixed at a level sufficiently low that some unskilled workers remain unemployed. We show that uniform (across sectors), Hicks-neutral technological progress must increase the unemployment rate. We then discuss a number of policy responses (tax cuts, direct government employment of the unskilled, employment subsidies to firms for hiring the unskilled, increased generosity of unemployment insurance) under different scenarios concerning how the government finances these initiatives. Political economy consequences are emphasized, as we assess each policy's chance of receiving political support from skilled workers. We conclude that a subsidy for the employment of unskilled workers, financed by a rise in the employer payroll tax rate associated with skilled workers, is a viable policy option.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 28
Keywords: Technical Change, Vertical Product Differentiation, Unemployment Income Distribution
JEL Classification: E60, J18, J31, J38working papers series
Date posted: June 24, 2002
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