We develop a dynamic partial-equilibrium model to analyse how labour market institutions (wage compression, minimum wages, unemployment benefits, mobility costs and fixed-costs of self-employment) and learning affect who and when people become self-employed. We find that certain ability groups of workers become self-employed for both “carrot” and “stick” reasons: Some prefer self-employment to the low institutionalised wage, while others are not productive enough to qualify for a job at the institutionalised wage. Furthermore, wage compression and learning may give rise to a class of switchers who start in wage employment and later switch to self-employment. Several predictions of the model are consistent with observed empirical regularities, such as the existence of a group of low-skilled self-employed workers, the increasing propensity for self-employment over age groups and the larger spread in earnings among self-employed.
- Wage compression