key topic

Future of Europe

The result of the 2016 Brexit referendum in the UK sent shockwaves throughout the EU. 2017 also saw upheaval, as incumbent parties in Germany and the UK won elections but emerged with much diminished authority, while elections in the Netherlands and France saw the defeat of populist candidates. With the UK’s withdrawal date from the EU set for early 2019 and the triggering of Article 7 against Poland, there is still uncertainty ahead.

The Global Financial Crisis caused a recession across Europe, the effects of which are still being felt today, largely in Southern European countries. Many of those countries are suffering or recovering from high youth unemployment. This, along with anti-migrant/anti-refugee feelings, has caused some to turn to populist movements. Furthermore, Southern European countries with high youth unemployment have very low birth rates which will impact productivity and pensions as their populations age. What are the long-term effects of recessions and what can be done to prevent the growth of populist sentiment?

  • Does accession to the EU affect firms’ productivity?

    State capture and uneven infrastructure development due to foreign direct investment can outweigh productivity gains

    Firms in the new EU member states of Eastern Europe are more productive than those in other transition economies, but with a diminishing advantage. The least productive firms benefit the most from membership, although the situation is reversed in the case of foreign-owned firms. Foreign direct investment fails to promote knowledge and technology spillovers beyond the receiving firms. The dominance of multinational enterprises in the new EU member states enhances the threat of corporate state capture and asymmetric infrastructure development, whilst access to finance remains a constricting issue for all firms.
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  • Improvement in European labor force participation

    Do structural reforms or educational expansion drive higher employment and participation rates?

    Daniel Gros, February 2019
    Employment and labor force participation (LFP) rates have increased throughout Europe since the 1990s, with little interruption from the Great Recession. While many credit labor market reforms for this progress, ongoing educational expansion might actually be more important. This implies that the overall employment rate of an economy can change if the share of the population with tertiary education increases, even in the absence of any labor market reforms or effects of the business cycle. Taking this compositional effect into account makes it possible to disentangle the impact of reforms.
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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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  • Do firms’ wage-setting powers increase during recessions?

    Monopsony models question the classic view of wage-setting and reveal a new reason why wages may decrease during recessions

    Todd Sorensen, April 2017
    Traditional models of the labor market typically assume that wages are set by the market, not the firm. However, over the last 15 years, a growing body of empirical research has provided evidence against this assumption. Recent studies suggest that a monopsonistic model, where individual firms and not the market set wages, may be more appropriate. This model attributes more wage-setting power to firms, particularly during economic downturns, which helps explain why wages decrease during recessions. This holds important implications for policymakers attempting to combat lost worker income during economic downturns.
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  • Do youths graduating in a recession incur permanent losses?

    Penalties may last ten years or more, especially for high-educated youth and in rigid labor markets

    Bart Cockx, August 2016
    The Great Recession that began in 2008–2009 dramatically increased youth unemployment. But did it have long-lasting, adverse effects on the careers of youths? Are cohorts that graduate during a recession doomed to fall permanently behind those that graduate at other times? Are the impacts different for low- and high-educated individuals? If recessions impose penalties that persist over time, then more government outlays are justified to stabilize economic activity. Scientific evidence from a variety of countries shows that rigid labor markets can reinforce the persistence of these setbacks, which has important policy implications.
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  • Effects of entering adulthood during a recession

    Recent declines in youth employment, net worth, and family formation could permanently affect financial well-being

    Lisa Dettling, April 2016
    Current cohorts of young adults entered adulthood during an international labor and housing market crisis of a severity not experienced since the Great Depression. Concerns have arisen over the impacts on young adults’ employment, income, wealth, and living arrangements, and about whether these young adults constitute a “scarred generation” that will suffer permanent contractions in financial well-being. If true, knowing the mechanisms through which young adults’ finances have been affected has important implications for policy measures that could improve the financial well-being of today’s young adults in the present and future.
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