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Study notes

Elasticity of Labour Demand (Labour Markets)

  • Levels: AS, A Level
  • Exam boards: AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB

Elasticity of labour demand measures the responsiveness of demand for labour when there is a change in the ruling market wage rate. The elasticity of demand for labour depends on these factors:

Elasticity of labour demand - revision video
  1. Labour costs as a % of total costs: When labour expenses are a high proportion of total costs, then labour demand is more elastic than a business where fixed costs of capital are the dominant business expense. In many service jobs such as customer service centres or gas boiler repairs, labour costs are a high proportion of the total costs of a business.
  2. The ease and cost of factor substitution: Labour demand will be more elastic when a firm can substitute quickly and easily between labour and capital inputs. When specialised labour or capital is needed, then the demand for labour will be more inelastic with respect to the wage rate. For example it might be fairly easy and cheap to replace security guards with cameras but a hotel would find it almost impossible to replace hotel cleaning staff with machinery!
  3. The price elasticity of demand for the final output produced by a business: If a firm is operating in a highly competitive market where final demand for the product is price elastic, they may have little market power to pass on higher wage costs to consumers through a higher price. The demand for labour may therefore be more elastic as a consequence. In contrast, a firm that sells a product where final demand is inelastic will be better placed to pass on higher costs to consumers.

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