August 2009

IZA DP No. 4363: Sweatshop Equilibrium

revised version published as 'On Sweatshop Jobs and Decent Work' in: Journal of Development Economics, 2016, 121, 120 134

This paper presents a capability-augmented model of on the job search, in which sweatshop conditions stifle the capability of the working poor to search for a job while on the job. The augmented setting unveils a sweatshop equilibrium in an otherwise archetypal Burdett-Mortensen economy, and reconciles a number of oft noted yet perplexing features of sweatshop economies. We demonstrate existence of multiple rational expectation equilibria, graduation pathways out of sweatshops in complete absence of enforcement, and country-specific efficiency and distributional responses to competitive forces and social safety nets depending precisely on whether graduation criteria are met.