What policies to combat labour informality? Evidence from MexicoOctavio ESCOBAR, Sean DOUGHERTY
Informality often concerns policymakers due to its negative implications on productivity and poverty. In recent years, the extent of informal employment has diverged across Mexican states. Varying informal employment dynamics within a comparable institutional environment offers scope to identify policies that can reduce informality. This paper uses cross-state panel and individual data to examine the determinants of informal employment, exploiting the diverging outcomes across states, industries and time. The results suggest that there is no ‘silver bullet’ to combat informality, yet a package of policies promoting labour skills, encouraging foreign investment, enhancing tax enforcement and deterring corruption can reduce informal employment. Intriguingly, reducing the cost to start a business is found to have a non-linear effect on informal employment, conditional on the prevalence of microenterprises.