The Optimal Design of Unemployment Insurance and Employment Protection. A First Pass

33 Pages Posted: 25 May 2006 Last revised: 16 Jul 2010

See all articles by Olivier J. Blanchard

Olivier J. Blanchard

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Peter G. Peterson Institute for International Economics

Jean Tirole

University of Toulouse 1 - Industrial Economic Institute (IDEI); University of Toulouse 1 - Groupe de Recherche en Economie Mathématique et Quantitative (GREMAQ); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Date Written: April 2004

Abstract

Much of the policy discussion of labor market institutions has been at the margin, with proposals to tighten unemployment benefits, reduce employment protection, and so on. There has been little discussion however of what the ultimate goal and architecture should be. The paper focuses on characterizing this ultimate goal, the optimal architecture of labor market institutions. We start our analysis with a simple benchmark, with risk averse workers, risk neutral firms and random shocks to productivity. In this benchmark, we show that optimality requires both unemployment insurance and employment protection---in the form of layoff taxes; it also requires that layoff taxes be equal to unemployment benefits. We then explore the implications of four broad categories of deviations: limits on insurance, limits on layoff taxes, ex-post wage bargaining, and heterogeneity of firms or workers. We show how the architecture must be modified in each case. The scope for insurance may be more limited than in the benchmark; so may the scope for employment protection. The general principle remains however, namely the need to look at unemployment insurance and employment protection together, rather than in isolation.

Suggested Citation

Blanchard, Olivier J. and Tirole, Jean, The Optimal Design of Unemployment Insurance and Employment Protection. A First Pass (April 2004). NBER Working Paper No. w10443. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=533002

Olivier J. Blanchard (Contact Author)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Peter G. Peterson Institute for International Economics ( email )

1750 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036
United States

Jean Tirole

University of Toulouse 1 - Industrial Economic Institute (IDEI) ( email )

Place Anatole France
21 Allees de Brienne
F-31042 Toulouse Cedex
France
+33 5 61 12 8642 (Phone)
+33 5 61 12 8637 (Fax)

University of Toulouse 1 - Groupe de Recherche en Economie Mathématique et Quantitative (GREMAQ) ( email )

Manufacture des Tabacs
21 Allees de Brienne
Toulouse, 31000
France

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

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