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Unemployment, growth and taxation in industrial countries

Francesco Daveri, Guido Tabellini
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1468-0327.00057 48-104 First published online: 1 April 2000

SUMMARY

Unemployeement and taxes Do taxes affect the rate of umemployeement?

To the layman, the upward trend in European unemployment is related to the slowdown of economic growth. We argue that the layman’s view is correct. The increase in European unemployment and the slowdown in economic growth are related, because they stem from a common cause: an excessively rapid growth in the cost of labour. In Europe, labour costs have gone up for many reasons, but one is particularly easy to identify: higher taxes on labour. If wages are set by strong and decentralized trade unions, an increase in labour taxes is shifted onto higher real wages. This has two effects. First, it reduces labour demand, and thus creates unemployment. Secondly, as firms substitute capital for labour, the marginal product of capital falls; over long periods of time, this in turn diminishes the incentive to invest and to grow. The data strongly support this view. According to our estimates, the observed rise of 14 percentage points in labour tax rates between 1965 and 1995 in the EU could account for a rise in EU unemployment of roughly 4 percentage points, a reduction of the investment share of output of about 3 percentage points, and a growth slowdown of about 0.4 percentage points a year.

— Francesco Daveri and Guido Tabellini

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