Book Chapter
Labour Market Institutions and Income Inequality

What are the New Insights after the Washington Consensus?

Looks at some of the labour market outcomes of recent economic reforms. The extent to which labour market institutions affect the relationship between reform policies and income inequality remains controversial. Some see labour market institutions as a hindrance to more efficient development and growth, while others argue that without proper labour market institutions an economy cannot progress. Labour market policies, regulations, and institutions have at least three goals: improving allocative efficiency (matching supply and demand); improving dynamic efficiency (increasing the quality of the labour force); and improving or maintaining a sense of equity and social justice among labour force participants. These different goals inform the discussion throughout the chapter, which is organized as follows: after an introduction, the second section touches briefly on some theoretical aspects of labour markets and reform policies; the third reviews trends in labour market changes in terms of informalization of employment, wage shares in national income, and wage inequality; the fourth reviews some general trends in labour market policies that have typically been implemented under the Washington Consensus, namely, a decline in minimum wages, shifts in the bargaining power of unions, and a reduction in employment protection; the final section offers conclusions on whether or not labour market policies reduce income inequality.