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.

  • Noncompete agreements in employment contracts

    Can regulation ensure that noncompete agreements benefit both workers and firms?

    Kurt Lavetti , September 2021
    Labor market institutions that may weaken workers’ bargaining leverage have received increased scrutiny in recent years. One example is noncompete agreements, which prevent workers from freely moving across employers, potentially weakening earnings growth. New data sources and empirical evidence have led policymakers to consider sharp restrictions on their use, especially among lower-income workers. These restrictions take many different forms, each of which has unique tradeoffs between the desire to protect workers while allowing firms to use noncompetes in cases where they may create social value.
  • Interaction between technology and recruiting practices

    While technology has improved sharing and managing information, there are legitimate concerns about the quality of information and its use in recruitment

    Vera Brencic, August 2021
    Employers are steadily increasing their reliance on technology when recruiting. On the one hand, this technology enables the wide dissemination of information and the management of large quantities of data at a relatively low cost. On the other hand, it introduces new costs and risks. The ease with which information can be shared, for example, can lead to its unauthorized use and obsolescence. Recruiting technologies are also susceptible to misuse and to biases built into their underlying algorithms. Better understanding of these trade-offs can inform government policies aiming to reduce search frictions in the labor market.
  • Corporate income taxes and entrepreneurship Updated

    The type, quality, and quantity of entrepreneurship are influenced significantly by corporate income taxes—though only slightly

    Jörn Block, July 2021
    Corporate income taxation influences the quantity and type of entrepreneurship, which in turn affects economic development. Empirical evidence shows that higher corporate income tax rates reduce business density and entrepreneurship entry rates and increase the capital size of new firms. The progressivity of tax rates increases entrepreneurship entry rates, whereas highly complex tax codes reduce them. Policymakers should understand the effects and underlying mechanisms that determine how corporate income taxation influences entrepreneurship in order to provide a favorable business environment.
  • Do in-work benefits work for low-skilled workers? Updated

    To boost the employment rate of the low-skilled trapped in inactivity is it sufficient to supplement their earnings?

    High risk of poverty and low employment rates are widespread among low-skilled groups, especially in the case of some household compositions (e.g. single mothers). “Making-work-pay” policies have been advocated for and implemented to address these issues. They alleviate the above-mentioned problems without providing a disincentive to work. However, do they deliver on their promises? If they do reduce poverty and enhance employment, is it possible to determine their effects on indicators of well-being, such as mental health and life satisfaction, or on the acquisition of human capital?
  • 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.
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