Evaluating the Connection Between Social Protection and Economic Flexib ility
NBER Working Paper No. 4338
Over the last 10 years, a variety of analysts have blamed high unemployment and stagnant economic growth in Europe on inflexible labor markets and pointed to the US as a more flexible economy, due to its less regulated labor markets and less generous social protection programs. This paper reviews that debate, critiques the arguments about the relationship between social protection programs and labor market adjustment, and reviews the research literature on this topic. In general, we conclude that much less is known about the aggregate effects of social protection programs on the economy than is generally claimed. Within the very limited existing research, there is little evidence of a significant trade-off between social programs and labor market adjustment, although there is also not much evidence to support those who claim that social protection promotes economic growth. The paper ends by suggesting future research directions.