We find that the main featues of labor policy across OECD countries can be explained by an equilibrium search model with risk neutral agents and a government that chooses policy to maximize a social welfare function. Optimal policy redistributes income from advantaged to disadvantaged workers. A worker can be disadvantaged in one of two possible ways - they may have less ability to aquire and utilize skills in the workplace or they may have less ability to enjoy leaisure (i.e. home production). The government does not directly observe these attributes, but must infer them from labor market outcomes. The optimal policy is a solution to an incentive compatibility problem, because each worker has some influence over their labor market state. The model explains why passive benefits tend to fall and active benefits tend to increase durng the course of unemployment spell. The model also explains why countries that appear to pursue equity spend more on both active and passive labor market programs.
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