Involuntary unemployment, macroeconomic policy, and a behavioral model of the firm: Why high real wages need not cause high unemployment

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Abstract

The perspective of modern macroeconomic theory, be it new classical or old and new Keynesian, is that unemployment can be reduced only if real wages are cut. The modern Keynesians, basing themselves upon the microfoundations of efficiency wage theory, argue that real wages cannot and will not be cut by firms for efficiency wage reasons. This generates involuntary unemployment based on a market coordination problem. A behavioral model that contrasts with efficiency wage theory is presented here which suggests that reducing real wages need not affect the marginal cost of labor and, therefore, the number of individuals employed. In the behavioral model, wherein there exists some linearity in the relationship between real wages and working conditions and labor productivity, a lower real wage rate is not a necessary condition for reducing the unemployment rate nor is a higher real wage an obstacle to reducing it. In this scenario, unemployment, to the extent that it is demand-side induced, is not related to movements in real wages. Therefore, restoring full employment after a negative demand shock becomes a matter for demand management, not demand management that must be coordinated with measures designed to reduce real wages.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)97-111
Number of pages15
JournalResearch in Economics
Volume60
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2006

Keywords

  • Behavioral economics
  • Demand management
  • Efficiency wages
  • Unemployment
  • X-efficiency theory

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