NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Technology and Labor Regulations

Alberto Alesina, Joseph Zeira

NBER Working Paper No. 12581
Issued in October 2006
NBER Program(s):   EFG   ME   LS

Many low skilled jobs have been substituted away for machines in Europe, or eliminated, much more so than in the US, while technological progress at the "top", i.e. at the high-tech sector, is faster in the US than in Europe. This paper suggests that the main difference between Europe and the US in this respect is their different labor market policies. European countries reduce wage flexibility and inequality through a host of labor market regulations, like binding minimum wage laws, permanent unemployment subsidies, firing costs, etc. Such policies create incentives to develop and adopt labor saving capital intensive technologies at the low end of the skill distribution. At the same time technical change in the US is more skill biased than in Europe, since American skilled wages are higher. In the last few years some partial labor market reforms in Europe may have started to slow down or even reverse this trend.

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This paper was revised on April 3, 2009

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w12581

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