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The risks and challenges of economic transition

Since 1989, post-communist countries have undergone considerable changes in their political, economic, and social structures and institutions as they have transitioned to market economies. Many people have migrated from the region to other countries (e.g. the UK), to live and work, whilst those left behind have found themselves facing severe political unrest and economic uncertainty—characterized by rising levels of inequality, increased rates of unemployment and greater job informality, plus a mortality crisis and a significant drop in GDP and life satisfaction. While the economies are recovering, the “human costs” of transition (e.g. increased rates of alcoholism and a so-called “iron curtain of unhappiness”) persist.

  • The automotive industry in Central Europe: A success?

    The automotive industry has brought economic growth, but a developmental model based on foreign capital is reaching its limits

    Lucia Mýtna Kureková, September 2018
    Central Europe has experienced one of the most impressive growth and convergence stories of recent times. In particular, this has been achieved on the back of foreign-owned, capital-intensive manufacturing production in the automotive sector. With large domestic supplier networks and high skill intensity, the presence of complex industry yields many economic benefits. However, this developmental path is now reaching its limits with the exhaustion of the available skilled workforce, limited investments in upgrading and research, and persistent regional inequalities.
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  • Returns to language skills in transition economies

    Speaking English has its benefits in transition countries but can it supersede Russian?

    Astghik Mavisakalyan, December 2017
    In many transition countries, the collapse of communism ushered in language reforms to adapt to the newfound independence from the Soviet Union and openness to the rest of the world. Such reforms may have implications for individuals’ economic opportunities, since foreign language proficiency may enhance or signal productivity in the labor market. Recent empirical evidence documents positive labor market returns to English language skills in transition countries. However, Russian language proficiency also remains economically valuable, and nationalist language policies may lead to future loss of economic opportunities.
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  • Youth unemployment in transition economies

    Both general and age-specific policies are necessary to reduce youth unemployment in transition economies

    Marcello Signorelli, November 2017
    The 2008 financial crisis and subsequent Great Recession created a second major employment shock in less than a generation in several transition economies. In particular, youth unemployment rates, which are usually higher than adult rates in normal times, reached extremely high levels and partly tended to persist over time. Improving youth labor market performance should therefore be a top priority for policymakers in affected transition countries. Better understanding of the dynamics of national and regional youth unemployment rates and other associated indicators is particularly important for designing effective policy approaches.
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  • Political connectedness and formal finance in transition economies

    Policies to increase formal finance to smaller firms requires improving the functioning of government bureaucracies

    Kobil Ruziev, November 2017
    Although small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) represent more than 90% of all enterprises and play an important role in employment generation, they lack access to affordable formal finance. Conventionally, market failures and information imperfections are seen as major causes of this misallocation. However, the role of social and political factors in resource allocation, including access to formal finance, has recently become more widely accepted. Firm-level evidence from post-communist economies, for example, shows that political connectedness improves access to bank credit, but is not associated with enterprise growth.
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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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  • Can diversity encourage entrepreneurship in transition economies?

    Harnessing the benefits of diversity is essential for encouraging entrepreneurship in the transition region

    Elena Nikolova, May 2017
    Entrepreneurship is an important lever for spurring transition in the economies of the former Soviet Union and Central and Eastern Europe. Utilizing diversity, in terms of religion or gender, can positively affect entrepreneurial development. Programs that encourage entrepreneurial initiatives (such as business start-ups) in culturally diverse localities should rank high on the policy agenda. Prompting women to start a business, along with female-friendly measures (including targeted legislation), can positively affect entrepreneurial behaviour and the performance of existing enterprises.
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