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CEP discussion paper
Pension shocks and wages
Pawel Adrjan and Brian Bell
March 2018
Paper No' CEPDP1536:
Full Paper (pdf)

JEL Classification: J31; J32; G32

Tags: wages; pensions; frictions

How do wages respond to firm-level idiosyncratic cost shocks? We create a unique dataset that links longitudinal data on workers’ compensation to the unexpected costs that UK firms have been forced to pay to plug large deficits in their legacy defined benefit pension plans. We show that firms are able to share the burden of such costs when a significant share of their workers are current or former members of the plan. We also investigate how compensation responds to the closure of defined benefit plans to future benefit accrual. We find that firms are able to use such closures to effectively reduce total compensation of workers who are plan members. These results point to significant frictions in the labour market, which we show are a direct result of the pension arrangement that workers have. Closing schemes has an implicit cost for firms since it reduces the frictions that workers face.