Viral V. Acharya, Ramin P. Baghai, and Krishnamurthy V. Subramanian buck the conventional wisdom and stand up for labor market rigidity:
Stringent labor laws can provide firms a commitment device to not punish short-run failures and thereby spur their employees to pursue value-enhancing innovative activities. Using patents and citations as proxies for innovation, we identify this effect by exploiting the time-series variation generated by staggered country-level changes in dismissal laws. We find that within a country, innovation and economic growth are fostered by stringent laws governing dismissal of employees, especially in the more innovation-intensive sectors. Firm-level tests within the United States that exploit a discontinuity generated by the passage of the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act confirm the cross-country evidence.
I normally consider myself a member of the pro-flexibility neoliberal consensus that making it hard to fire people makes it unduly difficult for people to get jobs in the first place. But this is a very interesting result for the other side and I’d love to see the issue further examined with some other proxy tests for innovation.