Labour market outliers: Lessons from Portugal and Spain

Olympia Bover, Pilar García-Perea, Pedro Portugal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

23 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Spain has the highest unemployment rate (22.2%) of any European Union country, Portugal one of the lowest (7.3%). Superficially, these countries share many labour market features: the toughest job security rules in the OECD, an apparently similar architecture of wage bargaining, and comparable generosity of their unemployment insurance systems, at least since 1989. We address the puzzle by examining Portuguese and Spanish labour market institutions, in particular job security, unemployment benefits and the system of wage bargaining. We then conduct empirical analysis of Spanish and Portuguese unemployment outflows and wage distributions, using micro data. We find differences in unemployment benefits (non-existent in Portugal until 1985, and less generous nowadays), differences in wage flexibility (wage floors by category established by collective agreements are set at a lower relative level in Portugal), and, in practice, higher firing costs in Spain. A key explanation of the difference in Portuguese and Spanish unemployment rates is the wage adjustment process. Generous benefit levels may have been necessary for the path Spanish unions took, but this was not the sole explanation of different wage setting in Spain and Portugal.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)381-428
Number of pages48
JournalEconomic Policy
Issue number31
Publication statusPublished - 2000

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