Labor markets and institutions

Institutions have important consequences for the performance of households, companies, governments, and entire markets—they determine the welfare of nations. Contributions to this subject area explore the underlying mechanisms and the politico-economic determinants of such structures. Many provide background analyses that offer evidence on how new institutions and policies would affect labor markets.

  • The labor market in the UK, 2000–2016

    Unemployment rose only modestly during the Great Recession and fell strongly since, with productivity and wages lagging behind

    Experiences during the Great Recession support the view that the UK labor market is relatively flexible. Unemployment rose less and recovered faster than in most other European economies. However, this success has been accompanied by a stagnation of productivity and wages; an open question is whether this represents a cyclical phenomenon or a structural problem. In addition the planned exit of the UK from the EU (Brexit), which is quite possibly the greatest current threat to the stability of the UK labor market, is not yet visible in labor market statistics.
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  • Is high-skilled migration harmful to tax systems’ progressivity?

    Understanding how migration responds to tax changes will aid in setting the progressivity of a tax system

    Decreased transportation costs have led to the transmission of ideas and values across national borders that has helped reduce the barriers to international labor mobility. In this context, high-skilled individuals are more likely to vote with their feet in response to high income taxes. It is thus important to examine the magnitude of tax-driven migration responses in developed countries as well as the possible consequences of income tax competition between nation states. More specifically, how does the potential threat of migration affect a country’s optimal income tax policies?
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  • The labor market in Finland, 2000–2016

    An almost decade-long economic stagnation left an unemployment problem for an aging society

    Tomi KyyräHanna Pesola, January 2018
    Finland’s population is aging rapidly by international comparison. The shrinking working-age population means that the burden of increasing pension and health care expenditures is placed on a smaller group of employed workers, while the scope for economic growth through increased labor input diminishes. Fiscal sustainability of the welfare state calls for a high employment rate among people of working age. Recent increases in employment among older groups contribute favorably to public finances, but high overall unemployment and a large share of the long-term unemployed are serious concerns.
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  • Why is youth unemployment so high and different across countries?

    Young people experience worse labor market outcomes than adults worldwide but the difference varies greatly internationally

    Francesco Pastore, January 2018
    In Germany, young people are no worse off than adults in the labor market, while in southern and eastern European countries, they fare three to four times worse. In Anglo-Saxon countries, both youth and adults fare better than elsewhere, but their unemployment rates fluctuate more over the business cycle. The arrangements developed in each country to help young people gain work experience explain the striking differences in their outcomes. A better understanding of what drives these differences in labor market performance of young workers is essential for policies to be effective
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  • The labor market in the Netherlands, 2001–2016

    Overall, employment and wages were accompanied by a rise in part-time work and a decline in job security

    The Netherlands is an example of a highly institutionalized labor market that places considerable attention on equity concerns. The government and social partners (unions and industry associations) seek to adjust labor market arrangements to meet the challenges of increased international competition, stronger claims on labor market positions by women, and the growing population share of immigrants and their children. The most notable developments since 2001 are the significant rise in part-time and flexible work arrangements as well as rising inequalities.
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  • The labor market in Israel, 2000–2016

    Unlike most OECD countries, Israel experienced a major increase in both employment and participation rates over the last 15 years

    Tali LaromOsnat Lifshitz, January 2018
    Following a decline in employment and participation rates during the 1980s and 1990s, Israel managed to reverse these trends during the last 15 years. This was accompanied by a substantial decrease in unemployment. New labor force participants are mostly from the low end of the education distribution, and many are relatively old. They entered the labor force in response to cuts in welfare payments and increases in the mandatory retirement age. Net household income for all population groups has increased due to growth in labor income; however, inequality between households has increased.
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  • The changing of the French labor market, 2000–2017

    The French workforce is now much better educated, but unemployment, underemployment, and low-income work present challenges

    Philippe Askenazy, January 2018
    France has the second largest population in the EU. Since 2000, the French labor market has undergone substantial changes resulting from striking trends, some of which were catalyzed by the Great Recession. The most interesting of these have been the massive improvement in the education of the labor force (especially of women), the resilience of employment during the Great Recession (albeit with a very late recovery), and the dramatic emergence of very short-term employment contracts and low-income independent contractors, which together fueled earnings inequality.
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  • The labor market in Ireland, 2000–2016

    Unemployment remains above pre-crisis levels, but recovery from its very high crisis level is well underway

    Adele BerginElish Kelly, January 2018
    Ireland was hit particularly hard by the global financial crisis, with severe impacts on the labor market. The unemployment rate increased dramatically, and the labor force participation rate declined by four percentage points between 2007 and 2012. Outward migration re-emerged as a safety valve for the Irish economy, helping to moderate impacts on unemployment via a reduction in overall labor supply. As the crisis deepened, long-term unemployment escalated, creating significant policy challenges. Overall unemployment has been dropping rapidly since 2013, but remains above its pre-crisis level.
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  • Replication in labor economics

    Is there a reproducibility crisis in labor economics?

    W. Robert Reed, December 2017
    There is growing concern that much of the empirical research in labor economics and other applied areas may not be reproducible. Correspondingly, recent years have seen an increase in replication studies published in economics journals. Despite this increase, there are many unresolved issues about how replications should be done, and how to interpret their results. Replications have demonstrated a potential for clarifying the reliability and robustness of previous research. Much can be done to encourage more replication research, and to exploit the scientific value of existing replication studies.
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  • The labor market in Austria, 2000–2016

    Fifteen years ago Austria was the “better Germany,” but it has failed to keep up over time

    René Böheim, December 2017
    Austria is an interesting economy due to its strong industrial relations with institutionalized collective bargaining over wage negotiations and working conditions. Currently, Austria’s GDP per capita is high, but unemployment, although comparably low on an international scale, is not declining in the aftermath of the financial crisis. The labor market is also characterized by an increasing share of mostly low-skilled foreign workers. High marginal labor taxes discourage low-skilled workers from leaving social assistance.
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