COUNTRY FOCUS: Australia’s enduring expansion Wide-ranging structural reforms and improved monetary and fiscal policy frameworks have helped Australia’s economy grow since 1992. Unemployment, inflation, and government debt remain low, while the economy has become more resilient. But this did not happen overnight. Australia’s incremental approach, particularly to labor market reform and trade liberalization, spread adjustment costs over time and enabled the country to sustain its reform efforts.
The paper studies the employment effects of a deposit-refund scheme on labor in a simple search-theoretic model of the labor market. It is shown that if a firm pays a deposit when it fires a worker, to be refunded when it employs the same or another worker, the vacancy rate increases and the unemployment rate declines. The scheme introduces rigidities in the labor market, however, which may be undesirable in countries wanting to liberalize their labor markets.
The transition strategy from administratively set interest rates to market rates is discussed. Despite worldwide trends toward financial liberalization, few monetary authorities are prepared to accept as reasonable any interest rate level that is market determined. The paper suggests some helpful indicators to assess the adequacy of interest rates and discusses factors that contribute to a smooth liberalization process. The main conclusion is that interest rate liberalization is not synonymous with laissez-faire policies, but requires the replacement of the administratively set interest rates by indirect monetary management techniques that operate through the market.
This paper documents recent labor market performance in the Latin American region. The paper shows that unemployment, informality, and inequality have been falling over the past two decades, though still remain high. By contrast, productivity has remained stubbornly low. The paper, then, turns to the potential impacts of various labor market institutions, including employment protection legislation (EPL), minimum wages (MW), payroll taxes, unemployment insurance (UI) and collective bargaining, as well as the impacts of demographic changes on labor market performance. The paper relies on evidence from carefully conducted studies based on micro-data for countries in the region and for other countries with similar income levels to draw conclusions on the impact of labor market institutions and demographic factors on unemployment, informality, inequality and productivity. The decreases in unemployment and informality can be partly explained by the reduced strictness of EPL and payroll taxes, but also by the increased shares of more educated and older workers. By contrast, the fall in inequality starting in 2002 can be explained by a combination of binding MW throughout most of the region and, to a lesser extent, by the introduction of UI systems in some countries and the role of unions in countries with moderate unionization rates. Falling inequality can also be explained by the fall in the returns to skill associated with increased share of more educated and older workers.
For the latest thinking about the international financial system, monetary policy, economic development, poverty reduction, and other critical issues, subscribe to Finance & Development (F&D). This lively quarterly magazine brings you in-depth analyses of these and other subjects by the IMF’s own staff as well as by prominent international experts. Articles are written for lay readers who want to enrich their understanding of the workings of the global economy and the policies and activities of the IMF.