IZA World of Labor

Social insurance

  • Do payroll tax cuts boost formal jobs in developing countries?

    Payroll tax cuts in developing economies might be beneficial to the formal sector, even when the informal sector is large

    Carmen Pagés, March 2017
    Informal employment accounts for more than half of total employment in Latin America and the Caribbean, and an even higher percentage in Africa and South Asia. It is associated with lack of social insurance, low tax collection, and low productivity jobs. Lowering payroll taxes is a potential lever to increase formal employment and extend social insurance coverage among the labor force. However, the effects of tax cuts vary across countries, often resulting in large wage shifts but relatively small employment effects. Cutting payroll taxes requires levying other taxes to compensate for lost revenue, which may be difficult in developing economies.
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  • Does unemployment insurance offer incentives to take jobs in the formal sector?

    Unemployment insurance can protect against income loss and create formal employment

    Mariano Bosch, October 2016
    Unemployment insurance can be an efficient tool to provide protection for workers against unemployment and foster formal job creation in developing countries. How much workers value this protection and to what extent it allows a more efficient job search are two key parameters that determine its effectiveness. However, evidence shows that important challenges remain in the introduction and expansion of unemployment insurance in developing countries. These challenges range from achieving coverage in countries with high informality, financing the scheme without further distorting the labor market, and ensuring progressive redistribution.
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  • What can be expected from productive inclusion programs?

    Grants and training programs are great complements to social assistance to help people out of poverty

    Jamele Rigolini, October 2016
    Productive inclusion programs provide an integrated package of services, such as grants and training, to promote self-employment and wage employment among the poor. They show promising long-term impacts, and are often proposed as a way to graduate the poor out of social assistance. Nevertheless, neither productive inclusion nor social assistance will be able to solve the broader poverty challenge independently. Rather, the future is in integrating productive inclusion into the existing social assistance system, though this poses several design, coordination, and implementation challenges.
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  • Can cash transfers reduce child labor?

    Cash transfers can reduce child labor if structured well and if they account for the reasons children work

    Furio C. Rosati, September 2016
    Cash transfers are a popular and successful means of tackling household vulnerability and promoting human capital investment. They can also reduce child labor, especially when it is a response to household vulnerability. But if not properly designed, cash transfers that promote children’s education can increase their economic activities in order to pay the additional costs of schooling. The efficacy of cash transfers may also be reduced if the transfers enable investment in productive assets that boost the returns to child labor. The impact of cash transfers must thus be assessed as part of the entire social protection system.
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  • New firms entry, labor reallocation, and institutions in transition economies

    In transition economies, better property rights protection and rule of law enforcement can boost job creation and growth

    Randolph L. Bruno, September 2015
    In the transition from central planning to a market economy in the 1990s, governments focused on privatizing or closing state enterprises, reforming labor markets, compensating laid-off workers, and fostering job creation through new private firms. After privatization, the focus shifted to creating a level playing field in the product market by protecting property rights, enforcing the rule of law, and implementing transparent start-up regulations. A fair, competitive environment with transparent rules supports long-term economic growth and employment creation through the reallocation of jobs in favor of new private firms.
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  • Pensions, informality, and the emerging middle class

    Getting the incentives right for firms and workers should be the priority in the labor formalization agenda

    Angel Melguizo, July 2015
    A large share of the population in emerging market economies has no pension coverage, exposing them to the economic risks arising from socio-economic and individual shocks. This problem, which arises from having large informal (unregulated) sectors, affects not only poor workers, but as many as half the newly or nearly middle class in some emerging market economies. With very little social protection coverage today, these workers will also be vulnerable in the future unless tax, labor, and social policies change to encourage formalization. While formalization would require substantial resources in the short-term, it seems financially sustainable.
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  • Are social security programs progressive?

    Whether social security programs reduce inequality is not related to the amount they redistribute

    Alvaro Forteza, July 2015
    Social security programs generally seek to provide insurance and to reduce poverty and inequality. Providing insurance requires little redistribution. But reducing inequality and alleviating poverty do require redistribution. To reduce inequality, programs must redistribute income, but redistributing income is not the same as reducing inequality. While some programs redistribute large amounts of income without noticeably reducing inequality, others reduce inequality with less redistribution and fewer labor market distortions. A non-contributory tier, which provides benefits without requiring contributions, is a key component for reducing inequality.
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  • The incentive effects of minimum pensions

    Minimum pension programs reduce poverty in old age but they can also reduce the labor supply of low-income workers

    Sergi Jiménez-Martín, August 2014
    The main purpose of minimum pension benefit programs and old-age social assistance programs is to guarantee a minimum standard of living after retirement and thus to alleviate poverty in old age. In many developing and developed countries, the minimum pension program is a key welfare program and a major influence on the retirement decisions of low-income workers and workers with erratic work histories. The design of many minimum pension programs tends to create strong incentives for low-income workers to retire as soon as they become eligible for the program, which is often earlier than the normal retirement age.
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  • Designing unemployment benefits in developing countries

    For unemployment benefit programs, the key policy issues are the level of benefits and subsidies and the types of taxes used to finance them

    David A. Robalino, July 2014
    In reforming unemployment benefit systems, the policy debate should be on the appropriate level of benefits, the subsidies needed for people who cannot contribute enough, and how to finance the subsidies, rather than on whether unemployment insurance or individual unemployment savings accounts are better. Unemployment insurance finances subsidies through implicit taxes on savings, while individual savings accounts with solidarity funds finance subsidies through payroll taxes. Taxes on certain consumption goods and real estate could be considered as well and could be less distortionary.
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  • Social protection programs for women in developing countries

    How to design social protection programs that poor women can benefit from

    Lisa Cameron, May 2014
    Women are more likely than men to work in the informal sector and to drop out of the labor force for a time, such as after childbirth, and to be impeded by social norms from working in the formal sector. This work pattern undermines productivity, increases women’s vulnerability to income shocks, and impairs their ability to save for old age. Many developing countries have introduced social protection programs to protect poor people from social and economic risks, but despite women’s often greater need, the programs are generally less accessible to them than to men.
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