This paper documents the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns on the Colombian labor market using household micro-data. About a quarter of employment was temporarily disrupted at the height of the first pandemic-induced lockdown in 2020. Women, the young, and the less educated were the most affected groups. Since then, a remarkable recovery, led by a rebound in informal employment, has taken place. By adjusting both employment levels and hours faster, the informal sector acted as an important margin of adjustment, particularly in those industries most affected by the first lockdown. The informal sector also appears to have played a role in decreasing the sensitivity of aggregate employment to more recent lockdowns in 2021, as the economy has learned to cope with pandemic restrictions, although the possibility of higher informality rates becoming embedded remains an substantial downside risk for long-term productivity.
Uruguay enjoys favorable social outcomes, and its labor indicators are comparable to other Latin American countries, but its youth unemployment is one of the highest in the world. To help understand this duality, we employ synthetic panels from repeated household surveys for LA6 countries from 1990-2018 to investigate the determinants of the youth-to-adult unemployment gap. We find that a large part of the Uruguayan gap cannot be explained by standard variables, which opens the possibility that other uncontrolled factors, including labor market institutions, might be at play.
Frederic Lambert, Mr. Andrea Pescatori, and Mr. Frederik G Toscani
Labor market informality is a pervasive feature of most developing economies. Motivated by the empirical regularity that the labor informality rate falls with GDP per capita, both at business cycle frequency and in a cross-section of countries, and that the Okun's coefficient falls with the level of labor informality, we build a small open-economy dynamic stochastic general equilibrium model with two sectors, formal and informal, which can replicate these key stylized facts. The model is calibrated to Colombia. The results show that labor market and tax reforms play an important role in changing the informality rate but also caution against over-optimism - with low GDP per capita, informality will always be relatively high as there is insufficient demand for formal goods. Quantitatively we find that higher productivity in the formal sector is key in explaining the difference between Colombia and countries with significantly lower informality. We use the model to study how labor informality and labor market frictions mediate the cyclical response of the economy to shocks, including commodity price shocks which are particularly relevant in Latin America. Informality is shown to play an important role as a shock absorber with the informal-formal margin limiting movements in the employed-unemployed margin.
Mr. Antonio David, Frederic Lambert, and Mr. Frederik G Toscani
We analyze the performance of labor markets in Latin America since the late 1990s. Strong GDP growth during the commodity boom period led to important gains in employment and a fall in the unemployment rate as labor demand outpaced an increasing labor supply. We emphasize the role of informality in the dynamics of labor markets in Latin America. A re-examination of Okun’s law shows that informality dampens changes in unemployment accompanying output fluctuations. Moreover, we present some evidence that countries with higher redundancy costs and cumbersome dismissal regulations, exhibit “excess” informality over and above what would be expected based on their income and educational levels. Labor market reforms could thus contribute to reducing informality and increasing the responsiveness of labor markets to output growth. However, looking at selected case studies of reforms using the synthetic control method, we find mixed results in terms of labor market outcomes.