Mandatory severance pay by length of job tenure in the G7, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Scandinavia, Greece and Spain

There are a wide differences across the OECD in mandatory severance pay in the event of a layoff.

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Source: Labor Market Regulation – Doing Business – World Bank Group.

Severance pay makes it more expensive to fire and therefore more expensive to hire. This means fewer job vacancies will be created but they will last longer.

The presence of mandatory severance pay  could increase or reduce the unemployment rate but unemployment durations will increase because it takes longer to find a suitable job match among the fewer available vacancies.

Mandating severance pay does not make the job match inherently more profitable. It just redistributes some of the surplus from the job match to the end when it is terminated.

Employers and jobseekers may agree to severance pay where investments in firm specific and job specific human capital for the job is profitable.

Severance pay in these circumstances gives the employer and more reasons to invest in specific human capital. The promise to pay severance pay will make the employer hesitate to lay them off. The employer will instead retain them over a slack period or redeploy them within the company rather than pay them out. This pre-commitment encourages investment in  firm specific and job specific human capital by both sides more secure, which makes the job match more profitable overall for both sides.

Of course, if it was possible to negotiate completely around severance pay mandated by law, there would be no effects on hiring, firing and unemployment durations. All it would mean is take-home pay would be less but in the event of a layoff, these employees would get that this wage reduction back as a lump sum.

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