• Fighting employment informality with schooling

    Labor force composition is critical for understanding employment informality in developing countries

    Developing countries have long been struggling to fight informality, focusing on instruments such as labor legislation enforcement, temporary contracts, and changes in taxes imposed on small firms. However, improvements in the labor force’s schooling and skill level may be more effective in reducing informality in the long term. Higher-skilled workers are typically employed by larger firms that use more capital, and that are more likely to be formal. Additionally, when skilled and unskilled workers are complementary in production, unskilled workers’ wages tend to increase, adding yet another force toward reducing informality.
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  • Hours vs employment in response to demand shocks

    Evaluating the labor market effects of temporary aggregate demand shocks requires analyzing both employment and hours of work

    Robert A. Hart, October 2017
    Labor market responses to temporary aggregate demand shocks are commonly analyzed and discussed in terms of changes in employment and unemployment. However, it can be seriously misleading to ignore the interrelated behavior of hours worked.Work hours can be altered relatively speedily and flexibly, and this strongly relates to employment, labor productivity, and unemployment outcomes. The hours–employment distinction is especially important in the evaluation of the performances of European labor marketsduring the negative shock experienced during the Great Recession.
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  • The influence of occupational licensing and regulation

    Occupational licensing may raise wages and benefits for those licensed but also reduce access to work without clear benefits to consumers

    Morris M. Kleiner, October 2017
    Since the end of World War II, occupational licensing has been one of the fastest growing labor market institutions in the developed world. The economics literature suggests that licensing can influence wage determination, the speed at which workers find employment, pension and health benefits, and prices. Moreover, there is little evidence to show that licensing improves service quality, health, or safety in developed nations. So, why is occupational licensing is growing when there are such well-established costs to the public?
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  • Rethinking the skills gap

    Better understanding of skills mismatch is essential to finding effective policy options

    Evidence suggests that productivity would be much higher and unemployment much lower if the supply of and demand for skills were better matched. As a result, skills mismatch between workers (supply) and jobs (demand) commands the ongoing attention of policymakers in many countries. Policies intended to address the persistence of skills mismatch focus on the supply side of the issue by emphasizing worker education and training. However, the role of the demand side, that is, employers’ wage-setting practices, garners comparatively little policy attention.
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  • Unemployment and the role of supranational policies

    EU supranational policies should be more active at promoting institutional reforms that reduce unemployment

    Juan F. Jimeno, October 2017
    Unemployment in Europe is excessively high on average, and is divergent across countries and population groups within countries. On the one hand, over the past decades, national governments have implemented incomplete institutional reforms to amend dysfunctional labor markets. On the other hand, EU supranational policies—those that transcend national boundaries and governments—have offered only limited financial support for active labor market policies, instead of promoting structural reforms aimed at improving the functioning of European labor markets. Better coordination and a wider scope of EU supranational policies is needed to fight unemployment more effectively.
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  • Family-friendly and human-capital-based immigration policy

    Shifting the focus from immigrants’ initial earnings to their propensity to invest in human capital

    Harriet Duleep Mark Regets, October 2017
    Immigrants who start with low earnings, such as family-based immigrants, experience higher earnings growth than immigrants who are recruited for specific jobs (employment-based immigrants). This occurs because family-based immigrants with lower initial earnings invest in human capital at higher rates than natives or employment-based immigrants. Therefore, immigrants who start at low initial earnings invest in new human capital that allows them to respond to the ever-changing needs of the host country’s economy.
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  • Wage policies in the public sector during wholesale privatization

    Does the transition to market economies imply growing wage inequality and, if so, along what dimensions?

    Jelena Nikolic, October 2017
    Examining the implications of changes in public sector wage-setting arrangements due to privatization is a relatively new area of economics research, with few studies having analyzed the effects of public sector restructuring on relative wages in developed countries. There is, however, a growing empirical literature that measures the effects of transitioning from central planning to market-based systems on public–private sector wage differentials. Policymakers can learn from this evidence about the ways in which ownership transformation affects the distribution of wages in both the public and private employment sectors.
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  • The labor market in Japan, 2000–2016

    Despite a plummeting working-age population, Japan has sustained its labor force size, thanks mostly to surging employment among women

    Daiji Kawaguchi Hiroaki Mori, September 2017
    As the third largest economy in the world and a precursor of global trends in population aging, Japan’s recent experiences provide important lessons regarding how demographic shifts affect the labor market and individuals’ economic well-being. On the whole, the labor market has shown a remarkable stability during the recent financial crisis, despite decades of economic stagnation and sluggish real wage growth. Rapid population aging, however, has brought substantial changes to individuals in the labor market, most notably among women, by augmenting labor demand in the healthcare services industry.
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  • How does the one child policy impact social and economic outcomes?

    A strict policy on fertility effects every aspect of economic life

    Wei Huang, September 2017
    The 20th century witnessed the birth of modern family planning and its effects on the fertility of hundreds of millions of couples around the world. In 1979, China formally initiated one of the world’s strictest family planning programs—the “one child policy.” Despite its obvious significance, the policy has been significantly understudied. Data limitations and a lack of detailed documentation have hindered researchers. However, it appears clear that the policy has affected China’s economy and society in ways that extend well beyond its fertility rate.
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  • Fertility decisions and alternative types of childcare

    Relative costs and family characteristics determine the effectiveness of different forms of childcare

    Chiara Pronzato, September 2017
    Increasing population age and low fertility rates, which characterize most modern societies, compromise the balance between people who can participate in the labor market and people who need care. This is a demographic and social issue that is likely to grow in importance for future generations. It is therefore crucial to understand what factors can positively influence fertility decisions. Policies related to the availability and costs of different kinds of childcare (e.g. formal care, grandparents, childminders) should be considered and promoted after an evaluation of their effects on the probability of women having children.
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