Legal Minimum Wages and the Wages of Formal and Informal Sector Workers in Costa Rica

34 Pages Posted: 15 Feb 2004

See all articles by T. H. Gindling

T. H. Gindling

University of Maryland, Baltimore County; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Katherine Terrell

Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); IZA Institute of Labor Economics; Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy

Date Written: February 2004

Abstract

The dual economy development models hold minimum wages (among other institutions) accountable for persistent dualism. We use 12 years of micro data on thousands workers in Costa Rica to test whether legal minimum wages have a differential impact on wages in the formal sector vs. informal sector, defined in various ways. We find the evidence from Costa Rica is contrary to the assumptions of these models: increases in minimum wages not only raise wages in the urban formal sector (large urban enterprises) who are covered by minimum wage law, but they also increase the wages of all other workers covered by minimum wage legislation in what are traditionally regarded as informal sectors and where the legislation is often considered not to be enforced (i.e., small urban enterprises, large rural enterprises and small rural enterprises). Further, our results suggest that higher legal minimum wages raise the wage of workers in these "informal" sectors more than in the urban formal sector and hence may actually work to reduce average wage differentials between these sectors and the urban formal sector. On the other hand, minimum wages have no significant impact on the wages of workers in another sector that is regarded as informal but which is not covered by minimum wage legislation: the self-employed workers (both urban and rural). Thus, minimum wages may contribute to dualism between the formal and informal, defined as self-employed vs. salaried workers. However, we find no evidence that self-employed earnings are lowered by minimum wages.

Keywords: Dual economy, informal sector, minimum wages, wages, Costa Rica, Latin America

JEL Classification: J23, J31, J38

Suggested Citation

Gindling, Thomas and Terrell, Katherine, Legal Minimum Wages and the Wages of Formal and Informal Sector Workers in Costa Rica (February 2004). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=500964

Thomas Gindling

University of Maryland, Baltimore County ( email )

1000 Hilltop Circle
Baltimore, MD 21250
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Katherine Terrell (Contact Author)

Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan ( email )

701 Tappan Street
Ann Arbor, MI MI 48109
United States

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy ( email )

735 South State Street, Weill Hall
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States

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