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Environmental regulation and the labor market

Environmental regulations such as air quality standards can lead to notable improvements in ambient air quality and to related health benefits. But they impose additional production costs on firms and may reduce productivity, earnings, and employment, especially in sectors exposed to trade and intensive in labor. However, benefits are likely to outweigh the costs.

  • Environmental regulations and labor markets

    Balancing the benefits of environmental regulations for everyone and the costs to workers and firms

    Olivier Deschenes, November 2018
    Environmental regulations such as air quality standards can lead to notable improvements in ambient air quality and to related health benefits. But they impose additional production costs on firms and may reduce productivity, earnings, and employment, especially in sectors exposed to trade and intensive in labor and energy. Growing empirical evidence suggests that the benefits are likely to outweigh the costs.
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  • Climate change and the allocation of time

    In various ways, climate change will affect people’s well-being and how they spend their time

    Marie Connolly, January 2018
    Understanding the impacts of climate change on time allocation is a major challenge. The best approach comes from looking at how people react to short-term variations in weather. Research suggests rising temperatures will reduce time spent working and enjoying outdoor leisure, while increasing indoor leisure. The burden will fall disproportionately on workers in industries more exposed to heat and those who live in warmer regions, with the potential to increase existing patterns of inequalities. This is likely to trigger an adaptation, the scope and mechanisms of which are hard to predict, and will undoubtedly entail costs.
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  • Air pollution, educational achievements, and human capital formation

    Exposure to elevated levels of air pollution adversely affects educational outcomes

    Sefi Roth, August 2017
    The link between air pollution and human health is well-documented in the epidemiology and economic literature. Recently, an increasing body of research has shown that air pollution—even in relatively low doses—also affects educational outcomes across several distinct age groups and varying lengths of exposure. This implies that a narrow focus on traditional health outcomes, such as morbidity and mortality, may understate the true benefit of reducing pollution, as air pollution also affects scholastic achievement and human capital formation.
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  • Air pollution and worker productivity

    Higher levels of air pollution reduce worker productivity, even when air quality is generally low

    Matthew Neidell, June 2017
    Environmental regulations are typically considered to be a drag on the economy. However, improved environmental quality may actually enhance productivity by creating a healthier workforce. Evidence suggests that improvements in air quality lead to improvements in worker productivity across a range of sectors, including agriculture, manufacturing, and the service sectors. These effects also arise at levels of air quality that are below pollution thresholds in countries with the highest levels of environmental regulation. The findings suggest a new approach for understanding the consequences of environmental regulations.
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  • Impacts of regulation on eco-innovation and job creation

    Do regulation-induced environmental innovations affect employment?

    Jens Horbach, June 2016
    New environmental technologies (environmental/eco-innovations) are often regarded as potential job creators—in addition to their positive effects on the environment. Environmental regulation may induce innovations that are accompanied by positive growth and employment effects. Recent empirical analyses show that the introduction of cleaner process innovations, rather than product-based ones, may also lead to higher employment. The rationale is that cleaner technologies lead to cost savings, which help to improve the competitiveness of firms, thereby inducing positive effects on demand.
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  • Environmental regulations and business decisions

    Environmental regulations impose costs on firms, affecting productivity and location but providing significant health benefits

    Wayne B. Gray, September 2015
    Environmental regulations raise production costs at regulated firms, though in most cases the costs are only a small fraction of a firm’s total costs. Productivity tends to fall, and firms may shift new investment and production to locations with less stringent regulation. However, environmental regulations have had enormous benefits in terms of lives saved and illnesses averted, especially through reductions in airborne particulates. The potential health gains may be even greater in developing countries, where pollution levels are high. The benefits to society from environmental regulation hence appear to be much larger than the costs of compliance.
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