Economic consequences of occupational deregulation: Natural experiment in the German crafts


This paper provides new evidence of occupational closure and rent-sharing in the labour market. In many labour market segments, occupational closure refers only to self-employed positions, but not to employees within these occupations. We study the relation of changes in entry regulation for firms and the corresponding economic consequences for employees within these firms. Based on bargaining theory, we argue that economic rents are shared with employees. In order to identify this ‘indirect’ channel of occupational closure, this paper uses a major reform in the German craft sector in 2004. This reform relaxes entry regulation into self-employment in more than half of the craft occupations. By using rich administrative data in a fixed-effects framework, we compare wages of employees in both markets pre- and post-reform. We find that employees in the reformed market are negatively affected after the reform. This proves the existence of former wage rents due to rent-sharing in closed market segments. This average wage effect, however, is not constant for all employees. If employees can make a credible threat to the employer to take advantage of deregulation and set up their own business, they can counteract the negative wage effects of the reform. As a consequence, our empirical results show that wages of young and skilled employees are less affected by the reform.

Acta Sociologica, 61(1)