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.

  • Income inequality and social origins Updated

    Promoting intergenerational mobility makes societies more egalitarian

    Lorenzo Cappellari, May 2021
    Income inequality has been on the rise in many countries. Is this bad? One way to decide is to look at the degree of change in incomes across generations (intergenerational mobility) and, more generally, at the extent to which income differences among individuals are traceable to their social origins. Inequalities that reflect factors largely out of an individual’s control—such as parents’ education, local schools, and communities—require attention in order to reduce income inequality. Evidence shows a negative association between income inequality and intergenerational mobility, and a positive relationship between mobility and economic performance.
  • Low-wage employment Updated

    Are low-paid jobs stepping stones to higher-paid jobs, do they become persistent, or do they lead to recurring unemployment?

    Claus Schnabel, March 2021
    Low-wage employment has become an important feature of the labor market and a controversial topic for debate in many countries. How to interpret the prominence of low-paid jobs and whether they are beneficial to workers or society is still an open question. The answer depends on whether low-paid jobs are largely transitory and serve as stepping stones to higher-paid employment, whether they become persistent, or whether they result in repeated unemployment. The empirical evidence is mixed, pointing to both stepping-stone effects and “scarring” effects (i.e. long-lasting detrimental effects) of low-paid work.
  • Disability and labor market outcomes Updated

    Disability is associated with labor market disadvantage; evidence points to this being a causal relationship

    Melanie Jones, March 2021
    In Europe, about one in eight people of working age report having a disability; that is, a long-term limiting health condition. Despite the introduction of a range of legislative and policy initiatives designed to eliminate discrimination and facilitate retention of and entry into work, disability is associated with substantial and enduring labor market disadvantage in many countries. Identifying the reasons for this is complex, but critical to determine effective policy solutions that reduce the extent, and social and economic costs, of disability-related disadvantage.
  • Do labor costs affect companies’ demand for labor? Updated

    Overtime penalties, payroll taxes, and other labor policies alter costs and change employment and output

    Daniel S. Hamermesh, February 2021
    Higher labor costs (higher wage rates and employee benefits) make workers better off, but they can reduce companies’ profits, the number of jobs, and the hours each person works. The minimum wage, overtime pay, payroll taxes, and hiring subsidies are just a few of the policies that affect labor costs. Policies that increase labor costs can substantially affect both employment and hours, in individual companies as well as in the overall economy.
  • Statistical profiling of unemployed jobseekers

    The increasing availability of big data allows for the profiling of unemployed jobseekers via statistical models

    Statistical models can help public employment services to identify factors associated with long-term unemployment and to identify at-risk groups. Such profiling models will likely become more prominent as increasing availability of big data combined with new machine learning techniques improve their predictive power. However, to achieve the best results, a continuous dialogue between data analysts, policymakers, and case workers is key. Indeed, when developing and implementing such tools, normative decisions are required. Profiling practices can misclassify many individuals, and they can reinforce but also prevent existing patterns of discrimination.
  • The effect of overtime regulations on employment Updated

    Strictly controlling overtime hours and pay does not boost employment—it could even lower it

    Regulation of standard workweek hours and overtime hours and pay can protect workers who might otherwise be required to work more than they would like to at the going rate. By discouraging the use of overtime, such regulation can increase the standard hourly wage of some workers and encourage work sharing that increases employment, with particular advantages for female workers. However, regulation of overtime raises employment costs, setting in motion economic forces that can limit, neutralize, or even reduce employment. And increasing the coverage of overtime pay regulations has little effect on the share of workers who work overtime or on weekly overtime hours per worker.
  • Impacts of regulation on eco-innovation and job creation Updated

    Do regulation-induced environmental innovations affect employment?

    Jens Horbach, November 2020
    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 helps to improve firms’ competitiveness, thereby inducing positive effects on their market shares.
  • Public sector outsourcing Updated

    The desirability of outsourcing the provision of public services depends on their characteristics and market conditions

    The decision to outsource public provision of services is multifaceted and context dependent. Doing so tends to lower labor intensity and increase its efficiency. Costs are usually lower, but quality problems can affect services like health care, though consumer choice has stimulated innovation and quality in both education and health care. Natural monopolies are less suitable for outsourcing, while network services (public transportation) may be outsourced through public tenders. Though some jobs may be lost in the short term, the long-term effects are generally positive for a wide variety of activities.
  • Racial wage differentials in developed countries Updated

    The variation of racial wage gaps across and within groups requires differing policy solutions

    Simonetta Longhi, October 2020
    In many developed countries, racial and ethnic minorities are paid, on average, less than the native white majority. While racial wage differentials are partly the result of immigration, they also persist for racial minorities of second and further generations. Eliminating racial wage differentials and promoting equal opportunities among citizens with different racial backgrounds is an important social policy goal. Inequalities resulting from differences in opportunities lead to a waste of talent for those who cannot reach their potential and to a waste of resources if some people cannot contribute fully to society.
  • Labor market performance and the rise of populism

    Automation, globalization, and crisis-driven spikes in unemployment have contributed to rising populism in advanced economies

    Sergei Guriev, July 2020
    The recent rise of populism in advanced economies reveals major voter discontent. To effectively respond to voters’ grievances, researchers and policymakers need to understand their drivers. Recent empirical research shows that these drivers include both long-term trends (job polarization due to automation and globalization) and the rise in unemployment due to the recent global financial crisis. These factors have undermined public trust in the political establishment and have contributed to increased governmental representation for anti-establishment parties.
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