Adjusting the Labour Supply to Mitigate Violent Shocks: Evidence from Rural Colombia

Year: 2011 HiCN Working Paper No. 103

This paper studies the use of labour markets to mitigate the impact of violent shocks on households in rural areas in Colombia. We examine changes in the labour supply from on-farm to off-farm labour as a means of coping with the violent shock and the ensuing redistribution of time within households. We also identify the heterogeneous response by gender. Because the incidence of violent shocks is not exogenous, we use instrumental variables which capture several dimensions of the cost of exercising terror. As a response to the violent shocks, households decrease the time spent on on-farm work and increase their supply of labour to off-farm activities (i.e., non-agricultural ones). Men carry the bulk of the adjustment in the use of time inasmuch as they supply the most hours to off-farm non- agricultural work and formal labour markets. Labour markets are not fully absorbing the additional labour supply. Women in particular are unable to find jobs in formal labour markets and men have increased time dedicated to leisure and household chores. Additional off-farm supply is not fully covering drops in consumption. Our results suggest that in rural Colombia, labour markets are a limited alternative for coping with violent shocks. Thus, policies in conflict-affected countries should go beyond short-term relief and aim at preventing labour markets from collapsing and at supporting the recovery of agricultural production.