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 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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  • The labor market in Italy, 2000–2016

    Italy has seen moderate recovery since the double-dip recession, but problems persist among the youth and in southern regions

    The Italian labor market suffered a sizable negative shock from the double-dip recession and has since experienced a moderate recovery beginning in 2014. Despite some improvement, unemployment remains higher than pre-crisis levels, especially for young workers. Female participation has been slowly increasing. Regional heterogeneity is still high, with the stagnating south unable to catch up with the north. Real earnings have been increasing, but productivity is stable at relatively low levels compared to other European countries. Finally, undeclared employment is high, especially in the south.
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  • Skill utilization at work: Opportunity and motivation

    Challenging jobs and work incentives induce workers to use their skills but make life difficult for managers

    Giovanni Russo, December 2017
    Organizational characteristics and management styles vary dramatically both across and within sectors, which leads to huge variation in job design and complexity. Complex jobs pose a challenge for management and workers; an incentive structure aimed at unlocking workers’ potential can effectively address this challenge. However, the heterogeneity of job complexity and the inherent difficulty in devising a correct set of incentives may result in misalignment between job demands and incentivized behaviors, and in complaints by employers about the lack of skilled workers.
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  • The labor market in South Korea, 2000–2016

    The labor market stabilized quickly after the 1998 Asian crisis, but rising inequality and demographic change are challenges

    Jungmin Lee, December 2017
    South Korea has boasted one of the world's most successful economies since the end of World War II. The South Korean labor market has recovered quickly from the depths of the Asian crisis in 1998, and has since remained surprisingly sound and stable. The unemployment rate has remained relatively low, and average real earnings have steadily increased. The South Korean labor market was resilient in the wake of the global financial crisis. However, there are issues that require attention, including high earnings inequality, an aging labor force, increasing part-time jobs, and rising youth unemployment rates.
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  • The Danish labor market, 2000–2016

    Despite recession-induced job losses, high turnover prevented a steep increase in long-term and youth unemployment

    Torben M. Andersen, November 2017
    Denmark is often highlighted as a “flexicurity” country characterized by rather lax employment protection legislation, generous unemployment insurance, and active labor market policies. Despite a sharp and prolonged decline in employment in the wake of the Great Recession, high job turnover and wage adjustments worked to prevent long-term and thus structural unemployment from increasing. While many have been affected by unemployment, most unemployment spells have been short, which has muted the effects on long-term and youth unemployment. Recent years have seen a sequence of reforms to boost labor supply and employment, including measures targeting the young, the elderly, and immigrants.
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