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.

  • Environmental regulations and labor markets

    Balancing the benefits of environmental regulations for everyone and the costs to workers and firms

    Olivier Deschenes, November 2018
    Environmental regulations such as air quality standards can lead to notable improvements in ambient air quality and to related health benefits. But they impose additional production costs on firms and may reduce productivity, earnings, and employment, especially in sectors exposed to trade and intensive in labor and energy. Growing empirical evidence suggests that the benefits are likely to outweigh the costs.
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  • The shadow economy in industrial countries

    Reducing the size of the shadow economy requires reducing its attractiveness while improving official institutions

    Dominik H. Enste, November 2018
    The shadow (underground) economy plays a major role in many countries. People evade taxes and regulations by working in the shadow economy or by employing people illegally. On the one hand, this unregulated economic activity can result in reduced tax revenue and public goods and services, lower tax morale and less tax compliance, higher control costs, and lower economic growth rates. But on the other hand, the shadow economy can be a powerful force for advancing institutional change and can boost the overall production of goods and services in the economy. The shadow economy has implications that extend beyond the economy to the political order.
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  • Taxpayer effects of immigration

    Reliable estimates of taxpayer effects are essential for complete economic analyses of the costs and benefits of immigration

    James P. Smith, October 2018
    Taxpayer effects are a central part of the total economic costs and benefits of immigration, but they have not received much study. These effects are the additional or lower taxes paid by native-born households due to the difference between tax revenues paid and benefits received by immigrant households. The effects vary considerably by immigrant attributes and level of government involvement, with costs usually diminishing greatly over the long term as immigrants integrate fully into society.
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  • The portability of social benefits across borders

    With rising international migration, how transferable are benefits, and how can transferability be increased?

    Robert Holzmann, October 2018
    The importance of benefit portability is increasing in line with the growing number of migrants wishing to bring acquired social rights from their host country back to their country of residence. Failing to enable such portability risks impeding international labor mobility or jeopardizing individuals’ ability to manage risk across their life cycle. Various instruments may establish portability. But which instrument works best and under what circumstances is not yet well-explored.
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  • Compensating displaced workers

    Uncoordinated unemployment insurance and severance pay do a poor job of insuring against losses resulting from job displacement

    Donald O. Parsons, September 2018
    Job displacement poses a serious earnings threat to long-tenured workers through unemployment spells and lower re-employment wages. The prevailing method of insuring job displacement losses involves an uncoordinated combination of unemployment insurance and severance pay. Less developed countries often rely exclusively on public mandating of employer severance pay due to the administrative complexity of unemployment insurance systems. If both options are operational, systematic integration of the two is important, although perhaps not possible if severance pay is voluntarily provided.
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  • Measuring employment and unemployment

    Should statistical criteria for measuring employment and unemployment be re-examined?

    Measuring employment and unemployment is essential for economic policy. Internationally agreed measures (e.g. headcount employment and unemployment rates based on standard definitions) enhance comparability across time and space, but changes in real labor markets and policy agendas challenge these traditional conventions. Boundaries between different labor market states are blurred, complicating identification. Individual experiences in each state may vary considerably, highlighting the importance of how each employed or unemployed person is weighted in statistical indices.
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  • Defining informality vs mitigating its negative effects

    More important than defining and measuring informality is focusing on reducing its detrimental consequences

    There are more informal workers than formal workers across the globe, and yet there remains confusion as to what makes workers or firms informal and how to measure the extent of it. Informal work and informal economic activities imply large efficiency and welfare losses, in terms of low productivity, low earnings, sub-standard working conditions, and lack of social insurance coverage. Rather than quibbling over definitions and measures of informality, it is crucial for policymakers to address these correlates of informality in order to mitigate the negative efficiency and welfare effects.
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  • The labor market in Australia, 2000–2016

    Sustained economic growth led to reduced unemployment and real earnings growth, but prosperity has not been equally shared

    Garry Barrett, July 2018
    Since 1991, the Australian economy has experienced sustained economic growth. Aided by the commodities boom and strong public finances, the Australian economy negotiated the global financial crisis without falling into recession. Over this period there were important structural changes, with increasing labor force participation among the elderly and the continuing convergence of employment and unemployment patterns for men and women. However, some recent negative trends include a rise in unemployment, especially long-term unemployment, a deteriorating youth labor market, and a stagnant gender earnings gap.
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  • The labor market in Sweden since the 1990s

    The Swedish economy continues to have high employment and rapidly rising real wages

    Nils Gottfries, July 2018
    The economic crisis in the early 1990s brought about a dramatic increase in unemployment and a similar decrease in labor force participation. Unemployment declined afterwards, but stabilized at around 6–7%—more than twice as high as before the crisis. Today, the unemployment rate is lower than the EU average, though Sweden no longer stands out in this respect. The 2008 financial crisis had small effects on the Swedish labor market. Employment in industry declined sharply and then remained stagnant, but employment in the service sectors has continued to grow steadily.
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  • The labor market in Brazil, 2001–2015

    An ongoing crisis threatens Brazil’s recent increased earnings and its decreased inequality and gender and ethnic gaps

    From 2001 to 2015, Brazil experienced a profound reduction in income inequality. The commodities boom and some institutional changes in the early 2000s kick-started the Brazilian labor market, increasing the quantity of formal jobs and earnings, especially for the poorest workers. Significant increases in average schooling and the real minimum wage helped reduce ethnic, gender, and regional earnings gaps, though all remain rather high. However, since 2014 a major fiscal crisis has negatively affected GDP and the labor market, seriously threatening these achievements.
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