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 consequences of trade union power erosion

    Declining union power would not be an overwhelming cause for concern if not for rising wage inequality and the loss of worker voice

    John T. Addison, May 2014
    The micro- and macroeconomic effects of the declining power of trade unions have been hotly debated by economists and policymakers. Nevertheless, the empirical evidence shows that the impact of the decline on economic aggregates and firm performance is not an overwhelming cause for concern. However, the association of declining union power with rising earnings inequality and a loss of direct communication between workers and firms is potentially more worrisome. This in turn raises the questions of how supportive contemporary unionism is of wage solidarity, and whether the depiction of the nonunion workplace as an authoritarian “bleak house” is more caricature than reality.
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  • Do institutions matter for entrepreneurial development?

    In post-Soviet countries, well-functioning institutions are needed to foster productive entrepreneurial development and growth

    Ruta Aidis, February 2017
    Supportive institutional environments help build the foundations for innovative and productive entrepreneurship. A few post-Soviet countries have benefitted from international integration through EU membership, which enabled the development of democracy and free market principles. However, many post-Soviet economies continue to face high levels of corruption, complex business regulations, weak rule of law and uncertain property rights. For them, international integration can provide the needed support to push through unpopular yet necessary stages of the reform process.
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  • Tax evasion, labor market effects, and income distribution

    Market adjustments to tax evasion alter factor and product prices, which in turn determine the true impact and beneficiaries of tax evasion

    James Alm, October 2014
    To determine the full effects of taxation on income distribution, policymakers need to consider the impacts of tax evasion. In the standard analysis of tax evasion, all the benefits are assumed to accrue to tax evaders. But tax evasion has other impacts that determine its true effects. As factors of production move from tax-compliant to tax-evading (informal) sectors, changes in relative prices and productivity reduce incentives for workers to enter the informal sector. At least some of the gains from evasion are thus shifted to the consumers of the output of tax evaders, through lower prices.
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  • Tuning unemployment insurance to the business cycle

    Unemployment insurance generosity should be greater when unemployment is high—and vice versa

    Torben M. Andersen, May 2014
    High unemployment and its social and economic consequences have lent urgency to the question of how to improve unemployment insurance in bad times without jeopardizing incentives to work or public finances in the medium term. A possible solution is a rule-based system that improves the generosity of unemployment insurance (replacement rate, benefit duration, eligibility conditions) when unemployment is high and reduces the generosity when it is low.
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  • A flexicurity labor market during recession

    Long-term unemployment did not rise under the flexicurity model during the great recession, despite the large drop in GDP

    Torben M. Andersen, July 2015
    Before the great recession of 2008–2009, the “flexicurity” model (with flexibility for firms to adjust their labor force along with income security for workers through the social safety net) attracted attention for its ability to deliver low unemployment. But how did it fare during the recession, especially in Denmark, which has been highlighted as having a well-functioning flexicurity model? Flexible hiring and firing rules are expected to lead to large adjustments in employment in a recession. Did the high rate of job turnover continue or did long-term unemployment rise? And did the social safety net become overburdened?
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  • Latent entrepreneurship in transition economies

    Some entrepreneurs and would-be entrepreneurs face financial and bureaucratic barriers to starting a business

    Hilal Atasoy, June 2015
    Because entrepreneurial activity can stimulate job creation and long-term economic growth, promoting entrepreneurship is an important goal. However, many financial, bureaucratic, and social barriers can short-circuit the process of actually starting a business, especially in transition economies that lack established institutional systems and markets. The main obstacles are underdeveloped financial markets, perceptions of administrative complexity, political and economic instability, and lack of trust in institutions. Gender disparities in the labor market are also reflected in less entrepreneurial activity among women than men.
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  • Knowledge spillovers and future jobs

    In the future, jobs will be created by those bold enough to transform new ideas and knowledge into innovations

    David B. Audretsch, December 2015
    Globalization brings both good and bad job news. The bad news is that jobs will be outsourced from high-cost developed countries into lower-cost locations as soon as the associated economic activity becomes mechanized and predictable. The good news is that globalization creates opportunities that can be realized by people bold enough to transform new ideas and knowledge into innovations. In that way, entrepreneurs will play a vital role in creating the jobs of the future by transforming ideas and knowledge into new products and services, which will be the competitive advantage of the advanced economies.
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  • Do in-plant alliances foster employment?

    An instrument for responding to an imminent economic crisis or for increasing firm competitiveness

    Lutz Bellmann, June 2014
    In-plant alliances that tailor specific deviations from sectoral collective agreements on wages and working time are intended to hold down labor costs. These agreements enable reorganizations to respond to an imminent economic crisis or to improve competitiveness. They encourage social partners to take greater responsibility for employment issues. Both unions and works councils agree to such contracts because they see them as inevitable to avoid severe employment losses. Thus, these alliances substantially unburden public employment policy.
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  • How does monetary policy affect labor demand and labor productivity?

    Monetary policy easing initially supports labor demand, but persistent easing may slow down necessary restructuring and productivity growth

    Andrew Benito, July 2017
    By supporting aggregate demand, including by easing financial constraints that affect businesses and house­holds, accommodative monetary policy increased employment during the 2008 financial crisis and its aftermath. But, monetary policies that ease financial pressures also reduce necessary restructuring that normally contributes to productivity growth. One reason why productivity growth has been weaker in the aftermath of the crisis is that aggressive monetary policy actions have weakened underlying supply-side performance and labor productivity.
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  • Slavery, racial inequality, and education

    Historical slavery may be a driver of human capital and its unequal racial distribution, with implications for education and income inequalities

    Graziella Bertocchi, February 2015
    Income inequality is a critical issue in both political and public debate. Educational attainment is a key causal factor of continuing inequality, since it influences human capital accumulation and, as a consequence, the unequal distribution of earnings. Educational inequality displays a racial dimension that is particularly persistent and difficult to eradicate through policy measures. Its roots lie in the colonial institution of slave labor, which was widespread in the US and Latin America up until the 19th century. However, the influence of slavery differs significantly across countries and between regions.
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