Labor Regulations and European Private Equity

by Ant Bozkaya & William R. Kerr

Overview — Recent theoretical models predict that countries with stricter labor policies will specialize in less innovative activities due to the higher worker turnover frequently associated with rapidly changing sectors. HBS visiting scholar Ant Bozkaya and HBS professor William R. Kerr examine how differences in labor regulations across European countries influence the development of private equity markets, comprised of venture capital and buy-out investors. In so doing, the researchers provide the first empirical evidence for this theoretical prediction at the industry level in the entrepreneurial finance literature. They also make a methodological contribution by demonstrating how jointly modeling the different policies for providing worker insurance delivers more consistent results than their individual relationships would indicate by themselves. Key concepts include:

  • Policy choices regarding the optimal levels and mechanisms of labor market insurance are complex and should consider many economic and non-economic factors.
  • Worker insurance policies favoring labor market expenditures (e.g., unemployment insurance benefits) over employment protection regulations encourage greater private equity entry and larger investment levels. This is true for both domestic investors and U.S.-inbound venture capital investments.
  • This effect is conditional on the level of worker insurance provided, which is of lesser importance for private equity patterns than the policy mechanisms employed.

Author Abstract

European nations substitute between employment protection regulations and labor market expenditures (e.g., unemployment insurance benefits) for providing worker insurance. Employment regulations more directly tax firms making frequent labor adjustments than other labor insurance mechanisms. Venture capital and private equity investors are especially sensitive to these labor adjustment costs. Nations favoring labor expenditures as the mechanism for providing worker insurance developed stronger private equity markets in high volatility sectors over 1990-2004. These patterns are further evident in US investments into Europe. In this context, policy mechanisms are more important than the overall insurance level provided. Keywords: employment protection regulations, dismissal costs, unemployment insurance benefits, private equity, venture capital, buy-outs, entrepreneurship. 37 pages.

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