Faculté des sciences économiques et sociales

Commerce international, progrès technologique et chômage naturel : le cas de la Suisse

Zanetti, Attilio ; Gaudard, Gaston (Dir.) ; Friboulet, Jean-Jacques (Codir.)

Thèse de doctorat : Université de Fribourg : 2000.

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    In 1991 Switzerland entered a period of recession. The economic slowdown led to an unexpectedly steep rise in unemployment. In February 1997, the unemployment rate peaked at 5.7% - the highest level since the 1930s -, up from 0.5% in 1990. For the first time in its recent history the country had to deal with a significant level of unemployment. It soon became clear that the abrupt rise in unemployment could not be explained by cyclical arguments only. This work is divided in two parts. The first part describes the recent evolution of the Swiss labor market, focusing in particular on the changes that have affected the composition of labor demand and their consequences in terms of natural unemployment. The second part analyses two possible causes of such changes, international trade and skilled-biased technological change, and evaluates their impact. The first chapter describes the stylized facts, pointing out the main differences in the way the labor market reacted to the slowdown in activity during the recession of 1991-1997 as compared with previous recessions. It argues that unskilled workers have been more severely and more durably hit by the decline in labor demand. The chapter also defines the concept of natural unemployment. It is generally admitted that natural unemployment includes two components: a frictional one and a structural one. Frictional unemployment is generated by imperfections of labor market institutions such that they limit market transparency and increase transaction costs. Structural unemployment, on the contrary, is due to a more fundamental disequilibrium between labor demand and labor supply (mismatch). Usually this occurs because unemployed persons lack the required skills. Chapter two provides empirical proofs of an upward shift in the natural unemployment rate. This is done by estimating a hiring function as well as a Beveridge curve.