Aug 16, 2012
Published in: Journal of Economic Surveys, Volume 28, Issue 3 (July 2014), Pages 551-572. doi:10.1111/joes.12040
Controversy over labor market policy often centers on achieving a balance between preventing worker exploitation, and avoiding loss of productivity or employment through excessive regulation. Although the literature documenting the impact of labor market regulation on employment is extensive, there is a dearth of evidence on the impact of such policies in low-income countries (LICs). Since it is easier for workers, especially women, to slip into the informal sector in LICs, regulations are likely to have stronger impacts on formal employment in these countries (but lower impacts on unemployment). We systematically reviewed available research from countries that are, or were until recently, LICs. Most studies document that more stringent labor regulations are associated with lower formal sector employment and higher informal sector employment. We also conducted a metaregression analysis of the impact of minimum wages on formal and informal employment. After controlling for publication bias, higher minimum wages are associated with lower formal employment and a higher share of informal workers.