Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Is Social Assistance Contributing to Higher Informality in Turkey?

Angel-Urdinola, Diego F. and Haimovich, Francisco and Robayo, Monica (2009): Is Social Assistance Contributing to Higher Informality in Turkey?

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Abstract

Although still low for European standards, investments in Social Assistance (SA) transfers in Turkey have been increasing in recent years. The government is expanding access to subsidized health for individuals in the informal sector through a rapid expansion of the Green Card program. Generous non-contributory programs, such as the Green Card, may create perverse incentives for individuals to join or remain in the informal sector as they can access free services without paying taxes and/or contributions, thus potentially being able to get higher “net” labor earnings than in the formal sector. Despite the fact that the Green Card is a large and generous program offered to individuals in the informal sector, empirical analysis in this report does not find an actual impact of the program (or of its rapid expansion) on informality. The reason behind this finding is the existence of a very large differential in wages between formal and informal workers explained by differences worker’s productivity. Low-wage workers facing the possibility to move from the informal sector to the formal sector would have strong incentives to do so even if this would imply losing all SA benefits. As such, the expected monetary and job security gains of having a formal job dominate those of having an informal job even after accounting for SA transfers.

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