Employment protection, technology choice, and worker allocation
Using a country-industry panel dataset (EUKLEMS) we uncover a robust empirical regularity, namely that high risk innovative sectors are relatively smaller in countries with strict employment protection legislation (EPL). To understand the mechanism, we develop a two-sector matching model where firms endogenously choose between a safe technology with known productivity and a risky technology with productivity subject to sizeable shocks. Strict EPL makes the risky technology relatively less attractive because it is more costly to shed workers upon receiving a low productivity draw. We calibrate the model using a variety of aggregate, industry and micro-level data sources. We then simulate the model to reflect both the observed differences across countries in EPL and the observed increase since the mid1990s in the variance of firm performance associated with the adoption of information and communication technology. The simulations produce a differential response to the arrival of risky technology between low- and high-EPL countries that coincides with the findings in the data. The described mechanism can explain a considerable portion of the slowdown in productivity in the EU relative to the US since 1995.