Gre za precej staro dilemo v ekonomiji. Do nedavnega je veljala standardna dogma, da naj bi minimalne plače kot takšne ali njihovo povečanje zniževalo zaposlenost oziroma vplivalo na povečanje brezposelnosti. Kajti podjetja se racionalno odločajo in ob višjih plačah začnejo odpuščati oziroma manj zaposlovati. Še posebej naj bi to veljalo za slabše plačana dela v storitvenem sektorju ter za mlade delojemalce. No, potem pa so pred nekaj leti nove študije pokazale, da so bile tradicionalne študije slabo oziroma napačno dizajnirane in da so bile ekonometrično neustrezne ali pristranske, pa tudi zaradi neupoštevanja prostorske heterogenosti (ne sprašujte!). Novejše študije (z upoštevanjem napak v starejših študijah) v zadnjih dvajsetih letih za razvite države skorajda brez izjeme kažejo, da minimalne plače nimajo negativnega vpliva na zaposlenost. Če že, naj bi bil ta učinek minimalno prisoten le med prvimi iskalci zaposlitve (mladimi), vendar ne nujno ter med slabo plačanimi negovalci v domih za ostarele v V. Britaniji.
To je pa tudi vse, kar so študije uspele izbrskati negativnih učinkov minimalne plače. In zakaj minimalne plače niso imele negativnega učinka na zaposlenost? Preprosto, ker so podjetja zaradi tega bolj povečala produktivnost in organizacijsko učinkovitost, zmanjševala fluktuacije v zaposlenosti, zmanjšala plače tistim z visokimi plačami in nekoliko dvignila cene.
Pač pa so študije potrdile, da minimalne plače nekoliko zmanjšujejo plačno neenakost v ZDA in V. Britaniji, vendar v spodnjih plačnih razredih oziroma dohodkovnih decilih. Kakšnih občutnih spillover učinkov na splošno povečanje plač ali splošno zmanjšanje plačne neenakosti pa minimalne plače niso imele. Ker pač zadevajo zelo majhen delež zaposlenih.
Spodaj je nekaj povzetkov nekaterih ključnih zadnjih študij. Zraven so linki na celotne študije.
Myth and Measurement: The New Economics of the Minimum Wage (Card & Krueger, 1995)
David Card and Alan B. Krueger have already made national news with their pathbreaking research on the minimum wage. Here they present a powerful new challenge to the conventional view that higher minimum wages reduce jobs for low-wage workers. In a work that has important implications for public policy as well as for the direction of economic research, the authors put standard economic theory to the test, using data from a series of recent episodes, including the 1992 increase in New Jersey’s minimum wage, the 1988 rise in California’s minimum wage, and the 1990-91 increases in the federal minimum wage. In each case they present a battery of evidence showing that increases in the minimum wage lead to increases in pay, but no loss in jobs.
A distinctive feature of Card and Krueger’s research is the use of empirical methods borrowed from the natural sciences, including comparisons between the “treatment” and “control” groups formed when the minimum wage rises for some workers but not for others. In addition, the authors critically reexamine the previous literature on the minimum wage and find that it, too, lacks support for the claim that a higher minimum wage cuts jobs. Finally, the effects of the minimum wage on family earnings, poverty outcomes, and the stock market valuation of low-wage employers are documented. Overall, this book calls into question the standard model of the labor market that has dominated economists’ thinking on the minimum wage. In addition, it will shift the terms of the debate on the minimum wage in Washington and in state legislatures throughout the country.
Does the UK Minimum Wage Reduce Employment? A Meta-Regression Analysis (de Linde, Stanley & Doucouliagos, 2014)
The employment effect from raising the minimum wage has long been studied but remains in dispute. Our meta-analysis of 236 estimated minimum wage elasticities and 710 partial correlation coefficients from 16 UK studies finds no overall practically significant adverse employment effect. Unlike US studies, there seems to be little, if any, overall reporting bias. Multivariate meta-regression analysis identifies several research dimensions that are associated with differential employment effects. In particular, the residential home care industry may exhibit a genuinely adverse employment effect.
This paper uses longitudinal data from three contrasting data sets (matched Labor Force Surveys, the British Household Panel Survey, and matched New Earnings Surveys) to estimate the impact of the introduction of the U.K. minimum wage (in April 1999) on the probability of subsequent employment among those whose wages would have needed to be raised to comply with the minimum. A difference-in-differences estimator is used, based on position in the wage distribution. No significant adverse employment effects are found for any of the four demographic groups considered (adult and youth, men and women) or in any of the three data sets used.
Minimum Wages: A View from the UK (Manning, 2013)
In the past economists were generally hostile to the idea of a minimum wage regarding those who supported the policy as being economically illiterate. But the balance of professional opinion has also shifted. For example the IMF, OECD, ILO and World Bank (not always bed-fellows when it comes to labour market policy) produced a joint report in 2012 for the G20 Conference stated that “a statutory minimum wage set at an appropriate level may raise labour force participation at the margin, without adversely affecting demand, thus having a net positive impact especially for workers weakly attached to the labour market” (ILO, 2012).
In the 1997 general election Tony Blair’s Labour Party proposed to introduce a national minimum wage if elected while the incumbent Conservative Party opposed it. The debate about the merits of the proposal was mostly around the question of the impact of a minimum wage on jobs. Those opposed to the minimum wage argued that anything that raised the cost of labour must necessarily reduce employment and some economists estimated that, if introduced, the minimum wage would destroy hundreds of thousands (even millions) of jobs. On the other side those who supported the minimum wage pointed to the then relatively recent research by Card and Krueger (1995) and studies of the impact of the Wages Councils (Machin and Manning, 1994; Dickens, Machin and Manning, 1999) that indicated that the job losses caused by minimum wages were very modest if they existed at all.
It soon became apparent that any effect of the minimum wage on aggregate employment was so small as to be of no great importance. Of the research conducted into the impact of the NMW on employment (see, for example, Stewart 2004a,b) only the study of Machin, Manning and Rahman (2003) found any negative impact at all and that study was of a labour market (care workers in retirement homes) where about 30% of workers were directly affected, where there was little or no ability to pass on higher costs in the form of higher prices and where the owners of the home could often substitute their own labour for that of paid workers. Even then the negative impact was very small.
The employment effect of the minimum wage is one of the most studied topics in all of economics. This report examines the most recent wave of this research – roughly since 2000 – to determine the best current estimates of the impact of increases in the minimum wage on the employment prospects of low-wage workers. The weight of that evidence points to little or no employment response to modest increases in the minimum wage.
The report reviews evidence on eleven possible adjustments to minimum-wage increases that may help to explain why the measured employment effects are so consistently small. The strongest evidence suggests that the most important channels of adjustment are: reductions in labor turnover; improvements in organizational efficiency; reductions in wages of higher earners (“wage compression”); and small price increases.
Given the relatively small cost to employers of modest increases in the minimum wage, these adjustment mechanisms appear to be more than sufficient to avoid employment losses, even for employers with a large share of low-wage workers.
Has the national minimum wage reduced UK wage inequality? (Dickens & Manning, 2004)
The paper investigates the effect on the wage distribution of the introduction, in April 1999, of the national minimum wage (NMW) in the UK. Because of the structure of UK earnings statistics, it is not straightforward to investigate this and various methods for adjusting the published statistics are discussed. The main conclusions are that the NMW does have a detectable effect on the wage distribution and that compliance with the NMW is widespread but the effect is limited because the NMW has been set at a level such that only 6–7% of workers are directly affected and the NMW has had virtually no effect on the pay of workers who are not directly affected. Furthermore, virtually all the changes occurred within 2 months of the introduction in April 1999 and its effect declined over time from April 1999 to September 2001 as the minimum wage was not uprated in line with the increase in average earnings. The more substantial increase in the NMW in October 2001 partially, but not wholly, restored some of this decline in impact.
Wage inequality, minimum wage effects, and spillovers (Stewart, 2012)
This paper investigates possible spillover effects of the UK minimum wage. The halt in the growth in inequality in the lower half of the wage distribution (as measured by the 50:10 percentile ratio) since the mid-1990s, in contrast to the continued inequality growth in the upper half of the distribution, suggests the possibility of a minimum wage effect and spillover effects on wages above the minimum. This paper analyses individual wage changes, using both a difference-in-differences estimator and a specification involving comparisons across minimum wage upratings, and concludes that there have not been minimum wage spillovers. Since the UK minimum wage has always been below the 10th percentile, this lack of spillovers implies that minimum wage changes have not had an effect on the 50:10 percentile ratio measure of inequality in the lower half of the wage distribution.
Minimum wages and wage inequality: some theory and an application to the UK (Butcher, Dickens & Manning, 2012)
Research suggests that, at the levels set in countries like the US and the UK, minimum wages have little effect on employment but do have impacts on wage inequality. However we lack models that can explain these facts – this paper presents one based on imperfect labour markets. The paper also investigates the impact of the UK’s National Minimum Wage on wage inequality finding it can explain a sizeable part of the evolution of wage inequality in the bottom half of the distribution in the period 1998-2010. We also present evidence that the impact of the NMW reaches up to 40% above the NMW in 2010, which corresponds to the 25th percentile. These spillovers are larger in low-wage segments.
The Spatial Analysis of the Employment Effect of the Minimum Wage in a Recession: The Case of the UK 1999-2010 (Dolton, Bondibene & Stops, 2012)
This paper assesses the impact of the National Minimum Wage (NMW) on employment in the UK over the 1999-2010 period explicitly modelling the effect of the 2008-10 recession. Identification is facilitated by using variation in the bite of the NMW across local labour markets with the use of the ‘incremental differences-in-differences’ (IDiD) estimator. We explicitly take account of the spatial nature of local labour markets by using commuting patterns to weight our estimation. We find that, even controlling for clear regional recessionary factors, there are zero or small positive employment effects.
Minimum Wages: Do They Really Hurt Young People? (Galán & Puente, 2015)
This paper uses a significant increase in the minimum wage in Spain between 2004 and 2010 as a case study to analyse the effects on the individual probability of losing employment, using a large panel of social security records. We show that this individual approach is important, as the possible effects for different types of individuals may differ from other estimates in the literature, based on aggregate or firm-level data, hence complementing them. Our main finding is that older people experienced the largest increase in the probability of losing their job, when compared with other age groups, including young people. The intuition is simple: among the affected (low-productivity) workers, young people are expected to increase their productivity more than older ones, who are in the flat part of their life-cycle productivity curve. Consequently, an employer facing a uniform increase in the minimum wage may find it profitable to retain young employees and to fire older ones.
The impact of the national minimum wage on firm behaviour during recession (Riley & Bondibene, 2013)
This paper examines the impact of the National Minimum Wage (NMW) on a range of outcomes for low-paying companies in the UK. We distinguish between the impacts of the NMW on small and larger firms and on firms in the low-paying sectors. We examine how these effects have changed since the introduction of the NMW in 1999. We find that upon introduction the NMW increased average labour costs for low-paying companies. Since then, its effects on companies’ labour costs have been more muted. As in some previous studies, we find evidence to suggest that companies may have adjusted to the increases in labour costs as a result of the NMW by raising labour productivity and by reducing profitability. We find no robust evidence to suggest that the NMW has changed average employment or investment rates for these companies. Nor do we find robust evidence to suggest that the NMW has had a detrimental impact on firm outcomes since the financial crisis and the recession of 2008.