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Public-private wage gaps in the period prior to the adoption of the euro: an application based on longitudinal data

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JEL Code 
J31 - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials by Skill, Training, Occupation, etc.
J45 - Public Sector Labor Markets
C21 - Cross-Sectional Models; Spatial Models
C23 - Models with Panel Data
This paper analyses the evolution of public wages and the public-private wage gaps in the period prior to the adoption of the euro in the countries then engaged on the fulfillment of the Maastricht criteria. The wage gaps are estimated controlling for employees’ observed and unobservable individual attributes, using a novel methodology of fixed effects quantile regressions. The results suggest, on the one hand, a relative moderation in the growth of public sector wages in several European countries in the 1990s. On the other hand, estimates obtained for the public-private wage differential imply an increase in the same period in the majority of countries in the sample, with public employees generally becoming more beneficiated vis-à-vis private sector employees with the same observed and unobservable characteristics. Therefore, the fact that European countries were undertaking efforts to comply with the requirements for adopting the single currency does not seem to have contributed to the reduction of the wage premium that the literature has typically associated with public sector employment. It is noteworthy that the countries where the wage differential is higher are Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain. This differential is, to a large extent, an actual wage premium associated with the public sector, but self-selection effects determining that the best workers prefer the public sector can not be neglected. Nevertheless, the wage premia tend to be smaller in the case of individuals with higher earnings, making it difficult to attract the more qualified workers to the public sector. This difficulty may be worsened by accross-the-board measures to reduce wages and employees.
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