What is labor economics?

The study of labor economics seeks to understand the relationship between workers and employers. It's important to society as it determines wages, the causes of discrimination, the impact of migration on employment, and how governments should manage recessions. 

  • Sexual orientation and labor market outcomes Updated

    Sexual orientation seems to affect job access and satisfaction, earning prospects, and interaction with colleagues

    Nick Drydakis, July 2019
    Studies from countries with laws against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation suggest that gay and lesbian employees report more incidents of harassment and are more likely to report experiencing unfair treatment in the labor market than are heterosexual employees. Both gay men and lesbians tend to be less satisfied with their jobs than their heterosexual counterparts. Gay men are found to earn less than comparably skilled and experienced heterosexual men. For lesbians, the patterns are ambiguous: in some countries they have been found to earn less than their heterosexual counterparts, while in others they earn the same or more.
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  • Compliance with labor laws in developing countries Updated

    Non-compliance with labor legislation is widespread and this has critical implications for understanding labor markets in developing countries

    Compliance with minimum wage laws and non-wage conditions of employment often depends on labor market specific factors. In developing countries, many workers still earn less than the legal minimum and lack access to mandated non-wage benefits. Enforcement has not kept up with regulation growth and compliance has not been measured from a multidimensional perspective. Such an approach would help to understand the impact of institutional variables and country-specific approaches on the level of labor law violation. The difference between de facto and de jure regulation remains particularly pertinent in countries where compliance is low.
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  • Is unconditional basic income a viable alternative to other social welfare measures? Updated

    Countries give basic education and health care to everyone, and for good reasons—why not basic income?

    Ugo Colombino, March 2019
    Globalization and automation have brought about a tremendous increase in productivity, with enormous benefits, but also a dramatic reallocation of jobs, skills, and incomes, which might jeopardize the full realization of those benefits. Current social policies may not be adequate to successfully redistribute the gains from automation and globalization or to advance the reallocation of jobs and skills. Under certain circumstances, an unconditional basic income might be a better alternative for achieving these goals. It is simple, transparent, and has low administrative costs, though it may require higher taxes or a cut/reallocation of other public expenditures.
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  • Employment effects of minimum wages Updated

    When minimum wages are introduced or raised, are there fewer jobs?

    David Neumark, December 2018
    The potential benefits of higher minimum wages come from the higher wages for affected workers, some of whom are in poor or low-income families. The potential downside is that a higher minimum wage may discourage firms from employing the low-wage, low-skill workers that minimum wages are intended to help. If minimum wages reduce employment of low-skill workers, then minimum wages are not a “free lunch” with which to help poor and low-income families, but instead pose a trade-off of benefits for some versus costs for others. Research findings are not unanimous, but especially for the US, evidence suggests that minimum wages reduce the jobs available to low-skill workers.
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  • Does increasing the minimum wage reduce poverty in developing countries? Updated

    Whether raising minimum wages reduces—or increases—poverty depends on the characteristics of the labor market

    T. H. Gindling, November 2018
    Raising the minimum wage in developing countries could increase or decrease poverty, depending on labor market characteristics. Minimum wages target formal sector workers—a minority in most developing countries—many of whom do not live in poor households. Whether raising minimum wages reduces poverty depends not only on whether formal sector workers lose jobs as a result, but also on whether low-wage workers live in poor households, how widely minimum wages are enforced, how minimum wages affect informal workers, and whether social safety nets are in place.
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  • Anonymous job applications and hiring discrimination Updated

    Blind recruitment can level the playing field in access to jobs but cannot prevent all forms of discrimination

    Ulf Rinne, October 2018
    The use of anonymous job applications (or blind recruitment) to combat hiring discrimination is gaining attention and interest. Results from field experiments and pilot projects in European countries (France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Sweden are considered here), Canada, and Australia shed light on their potential to reduce some of the discriminatory barriers to hiring for minority and other disadvantaged groups. But although this approach can achieve its primary aims, there are also important cautions to consider.
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