FIW Working Papers | 2012-05

Financial Liberalization and Institutional Development (2)

The objective of this paper is to assess whether the level of unionization and the rigidity of the exchange rate affected wages and monetary policy in SEE and CIS during the ongoing economic crisis. Towards that end, a New Keynesian model with price and wage rigidities is used. The model is estimated with a panel GMM over the period January 2002 – March 2011 on sample of 19 countries. Several findings emerge. First, the output gap is found not to depend on the real interest rate, in accordance with the underdeveloped financial markets in these economies. Second, inflation is found not to depend on the output gap, but on the wage gap, which stresses the relevance of the labour unions for the inflation dynamics in these countries. Third, the labour wedge that arises from the monopolistic competition in the labour market works mainly through the wage gap, not the output gap, in accordance with the high unemployment in these countries. Fourth, monetary policy responded counter-cyclically during the crisis in countries with weak trade unions, differently from countries with strong unions: in crisis times, weak economy drags wages down in low-unionized countries and monetary policy relaxes in these countries, both due to lower wages and due to the weaker economy; on the other hand, strong unions prevent a weak economy to drag wages down in crisis times and central banks in these countries are found not to react to economic activity, prices or wages. Fifth, the fixed exchange rate is found to restrain monetary policy in times of crisis, too – in countries with flexible exchange rates, monetary policy during the crisis responds to movements in output gap and reserves, in contrast to countries with fixed exchange rate, where monetary policy does not respond to any domestic macroeconomic variable.