Sector-level economic effects of regulatory complexity: evidence from Spain

Sector-level economic effects of regulatory complexity: evidence from Spain

Series: Working Papers. 2312.

Author: Juan S. Mora-Sanguinetti, Javier Quintana, Isabel Soler and Rok Spruk.

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This paper studies for the first time the impact on various measures of economic efficiency of regulatory complexity by sector in Spain. We base our analysis on an innovative database that classifies 206,777 regulations by economic sector and region, which highlights the growing volume of regulation, as well as its diversity by sector, region and business cycle stage.
This analysis first looks at the aggregate impacts of sectoral regulatory complexity on the employment-to-population ratio, total working hours, sectoral GDP shares, labour intensity and capital intensity. Secondly it delves into the heterogeneous impacts observed across firms of different sizes and ages, drawing on the MCVL (Continuous Work History Sample), a rich database at the enterprise level.
On the first front, we estimate a set of multiple fixed-effects model specifications across 13 economic sectors, 23 regulatory sectors and 17 Spanish regions over the period 1995-2020. Our results suggest that greater regulatory complexity has a negative impact on the employment rate and on value added. The effect on employment is consistent with previous findings for the United States. In particular, ceteris paribus, each additional increase in the regulatory complexity index is associated with a 0.7 percent drop in the sector-level employment share. Furthermore, our findings suggest that several distortionary sector-level effects of increasing regulatory complexity are taking place. For instance, markedly lower labour intensity and decreased sector-level investment rates, which confirm that greater regulatory complexity entails non-trivial sector-level costs. Distortionary effects of regulatory complexity materialise through compositional differences, mainly in the form of reduced wages and a lower investment rate.

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