The Low-Pay No-Pay Cycle: Are There Systematic Differences across Demographic Groups?

Melbourne Institute Working Paper No. 32/13

Date: October 2013


Yin King Fok
Rosanna Scutella
Roger Wilkins


We investigate transitions between unemployment, low-paid employment and higher-paid employment using household panel data for the period 2001 to 2011. Dynamic panel data methods are used to estimate the effects of labour force status on subsequent labour force status. A distinctive feature of our study is the investigation of heterogeneity in the effects of unemployment and low-paid employment on future employment prospects. We find that there is state dependence in both unemployment and low-paid employment and clear evidence of a low-pay no-pay cycle for both men and women. Significant differences in effects across different subgroups of the population are, however, found. Typically, the young and the better educated face less severe penalties from unemployment or low-paid employment, and, for women, the cycle between low pay and no pay varies across subgroups. Moreover, in the case of men who have completed secondary schooling but have no further qualifications, low-paid employment actually decreases the chances of entering higher-paid employment by more than unemployment does. This is not the case for women, however, who clearly have a higher likelihood of entering higher-paid employment from low-paid employment than from unemployment, regardless of their age, education level or other characteristics.

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  • Employment dynamics, state dependence, heterogeneous impacts