Restraining Government in America and Around the World
Evidence from Italy: Less Regulation = More Jobs and Higher Earnings
Who dah thunk it????
August 10, 2020 by
There are all sorts of regulations, some of which affect the entire economy and some of which target certain sectors. Moreover, regulations vary widely since – depending on the example – they may tell people and businesses what to do, how to do it, when to do it, and who to do it with.
This is why it’s probably best to think of government red tape as an obstacle course that increases the difficulty of engaging in commerce.
An expensive obstacle course.
Some new research published by Italy’s central bank gives us an opportunity to understand the consequences of red tape.
The study, authored by Lucia Rizzica, Giacomo Roma, and Gabriele Rovigatti, looked at a real-world example of product market regulation (PMR) governing retail hours in Italy.
In this paper we focus on how the regulation of shops opening hours affects the relevant market size and structure. This dimension of PMR has traditionally been a controversial issue in the policy debate, as it involves social, political, economic, and even religious considerations. …we tackle these questions empirically and estimate the effects of full deregulation in shop opening hours on the level and composition of employment and on the number of shops and their size distribution…we focus on Italy and build a novel dataset of Italian municipalities 2007-2016, including their regulatory status, and exploit the variation provided by the staggered implementation at the municipal level of a deregulation reform enacted from1998 onwards.
Here’s a visual from the study, showing the variation over time in the number of municipalities with no regulation, medium regulation, and heavy regulation.
The good news is that Italy actually got rid of rules dictating when stores could be open and this gave the economists an opportunity to measure what happened.
Our estimates show that, in the context of a general contraction of the retail sector and of the economy as a whole, deregulating shops opening hours helped to lower the decrease in both the number of workers and establishments, with an estimated positive impact of about 3% and 2%, respectively. …
On top of it, individual-based estimates show that the sector’s labor force structure changed towards a higher prevalence of employees over self-employed, together with a general increase in the number of hours worked and earnings of employees, especially of those with permanent contracts.
Our results are robust to a number of checks… In Table 2 we present our baseline results.
In columns (1)-(2) we report the estimates of the liberalization effect on the number of workers and in columns (3)-(4) those on the number of plants in each municipality. …the resulting estimated effect of liberalization in the newly liberalized municipalities is a 3.4% increase in the number of individuals working in the wholesale and retail sector and a 2.1% increase in the number of shops. …
Finally, we show that the reform also had a positive effect on the activity of complementary services, such as restaurants and financial services and, overall, on total employment in affected areas.
For wonky readers, here’s the table mentioned in the above excerpt.
So what’s the bottom line?
…from a policy perspective, our results provide support to the idea that a more flexible regulation of the business environment boosts economic growth… We find no evidence that this leads to a worsening of employment conditions, on the contrary permanent dependent workers enjoyed an increase in their earnings.
It’s great to see that deregulation produced more jobs and higher earnings.
But one thing that we don’t find in the study, unfortunately, is any estimate of how deregulation also benefited consumers thanks to lower prices and greater convenience.