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.

  • Fertility postponement and labor market outcomes Updated

    Postponed childbearing improves women’s labor market outcomes but may reduce overall fertility

    Massimiliano Bratti, January 2023
    The rise in the average age of women bearing their first child is a well-established demographic trend in recent decades. Postponed childbearing can have important consequences for the mothers and, at a macro level, for the country in which they live. Research has primarily focused on the effect postponing fertility has on mothers’ labor market outcomes and on the total number of children a woman has in her lifetime. Most research finds that postponing the first birth raises a mother's labor force participation and wages but may have negative effects on overall fertility, especially in the absence of supportive family-friendly policies.
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  • In-plant alliances can mitigate economic crisis impacts Updated

    Decentral bargaining is an instrument to address both imminent economic crises and for increasing firm competitiveness

    In-plant alliances are plant-specific deviations from sectoral collective agreements related to wages and working time that are intended to hold down labor costs. These agreements enable firm-level reorganizations to respond to an imminent economic crisis or to improve competitiveness. They also encourage social partners to take greater responsibility for employment issues. Both unions and works councils agree to such contracts because they see them as helpful in avoiding severe employment losses. Thus, these alliances substantially unburden public employment policy.
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  • Job search requirements for older unemployed workers Updated

    Search requirements for the older unemployed affect their re-employment rates and their flows into states of inactivity

    Hans Bloemen, November 2022
    Many OECD countries have, or have had, a policy that exempts older unemployed people from the requirement to search for a job. An aging population and low participation by older workers in the labor market increasingly put public finances under strain, and spur calls for policy measures that activate labor force participation by older workers. Introducing job search requirements for older unemployed workers aims to increase their re-employment rates. Abolishing the exemption from job search requirements for the older unemployed has been shown to initiate higher outflow rates from unemployment for them.
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  • Firm age and job creation in the US

    New businesses are essential to keep unemployment low, but start-ups need loans in order to create jobs

    Henry R. Hyatt, November 2022
    Entrepreneurship is essential for a healthy labor market. Recent evidence shows that young businesses (at most ten years old) have, on average, accounted for all of US employment growth over the past few decades. New businesses are especially important for youth employment. However, these businesses tend to borrow a lot, and the credit constraints they face limit their ability to create jobs. Historically, much of the discussion regarding the economic importance of entrepreneurship has focused on small businesses. Empirical evidence increasingly suggests that, among small businesses, those that are young create the most jobs.
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  • The labor market in Canada, 2000–2021 Updated

    Covid-19 ended 20 years of stability and good labor market performance, aided in part by a strong resource boom

    W. Craig Riddell, November 2022
    From 2000 to 2019, Canada's economy and labor market performed well. Important in this success was a strong resource boom from the late 1990s to 2014. After the boom the economy and labor market adjusted relatively smoothly, with labor and other resources exiting resource-rich regions and moving elsewhere. Strong growth in major export markets (Asia and the US) aided the adjustment. The Covid-19 downturn resulted in an unprecedented decline in employment, and a steep rise in unemployment and non-participation. Despite the severity of the Covid-19 shock, by December 2021 most key measures of labor market activity had returned to pre-pandemic levels.
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  • How is new technology changing job design? Updated

    Machines’ ability to perform cognitive, physical, and social tasks is advancing, dramatically changing jobs and labor markets

    The IT revolution has had dramatic effects on jobs and the labor market. Many routine manual and cognitive tasks have been automated, replacing workers. By contrast, new technologies complement and create new non-routine cognitive and social tasks, making work in such tasks more productive, and creating new jobs. This has polarized labor markets: while low-skill jobs stagnated, there are fewer and lower-paid jobs for middle-skill workers, and higher pay for high-skill workers, increasing wage inequality. Advances in AI may accelerate computers’ ability to perform cognitive tasks, heightening concerns about future automation of even high-skill jobs.
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  • The labor market in New Zealand, 2000−2021 Updated

    Employment has grown steadily, unemployment is low, and the gender gap and skill premiums have fallen

    David C. Maré, August 2022
    New Zealand is a small open economy, with large international labor flows and skilled immigrants. After the global financial crisis (GFC) employment took four years to recover, while unemployment took more than a decade to return to pre-crisis levels. Māori, Pasifika, and young workers were worst affected. The Covid-19 pandemic saw employment decline and unemployment rise but this was reversed within a few quarters. However, the long-term impact of the pandemic remains uncertain.
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  • Should unemployment insurance cover partial unemployment? Updated

    Time-limited benefits may yield significant welfare gains and help underemployed part-time workers move to full-time employment

    Susanne Ek Spector, June 2022
    A considerable share of the labor force consists of underemployed part-time workers: employed workers who, for various reasons, are unable to work as much as they would like to. Offering unemployment benefits to part-time unemployed workers is controversial. On the one hand, such benefits can strengthen incentives to take a part-time job rather than remain fully unemployed, thus raising the probability of obtaining at least some employment. On the other hand, these benefits weaken incentives for part-time workers to look for full-time employment. It is also difficult to distinguish people who work part-time by choice from those who do so involuntarily.
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  • Gross domestic product: Are other measures needed? Updated

    GDP summarizes only one aspect of a country’s condition; other measures in addition to GDP would be valuable

    Barbara M. Fraumeni, April 2022
    Gross domestic product (GDP) is the key indicator of the health of an economy and can be easily compared across countries. But it has limitations. GDP tells what is going on today, but does not inform about sustainability of growth. The majority of time is spent in home production, yet the value of this time is not included in GDP. GDP does not measure happiness, so residents can be dissatisfied even when GDP is rising. In addition, GDP does not consider environmental factors, reflect what individuals do outside paid employment, or even measure the current or future potential human capital of a country. Hence, complementary measures may help to show a more comprehensive picture of an economy.
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  • Employment and wage effects of extending collective bargaining agreements Updated

    Sectoral collective contracts reduce inequality but may lead to job losses among workers with earnings close to the wage floors

    In many countries, the wage floors and working conditions set in collective contracts negotiated by a subset of employers and unions are subsequently extended to all employees in an industry. Those extensions ensure common working conditions within the industry, mitigate wage inequality, and reduce gender wage gaps. However, little is known about the so-called bite of collective contracts and whether they limit wage adjustments for all workers. Evidence suggests that collective contract benefits come at the cost of reduced employment levels, though typically only for workers earning close to the wage floors.
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