Transition and emerging economies

The transformation of economic systems from plan to market in transition and emerging economies has significant consequences not just for labor markets in those countries. The articles in this section offer summary lessons that can guide the development of institutions and labor reform policies in such countries, while also having wider relevance for other economies.

  • Female poverty and intrahousehold inequality in transition economies Updated

    An unequal distribution of resources within the family is a special concern for female poverty

    Luca Piccoli, February 2023
    Transition to a market economy is accompanied by a period of greater economic uncertainty. Women are likely to suffer substantial disadvantages from this uncertainty compared to men as they are, for example, more likely to lose their job. This not only implies a monetary loss for the entire family, but also degrades female bargaining power within the household, possibly further aggravating their well-being. When intrahousehold inequality—an unequal distribution of resources among family members—exists, female poverty might be significantly larger than what can be deduced using standard household-based poverty measures.
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  • Is the post-communist transition over?

    Support for economic liberalization reforms is essential, but it grows stronger only where societies experience the effects of reversing these reforms

    An extensive program of economic liberalization reforms, even when it generates positive outcomes, does not automatically generate support for further reforms. Societies respond with strong support only after experiencing the effects of reversing these reforms (i.e. corruption, inequality of opportunity). This point is illustrated through the example of the post-communist transformation in Eastern Europe and Central Asia—arguably a context where the end point of reforms was never clearly defined, and even successful reforms are now associated with a degree of reform suspicion.
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  • Determinants of inequality in transition countries

    Market changes and limited redistribution contributed to high income and wealth inequality growth in Eastern Europe

    High levels of economic inequality may lead to lower economic growth and can have negative social and political impacts. Recent empirical research shows that income and wealth inequalities in Eastern Europe since the fall of socialism increased significantly more than previously suggested. Currently, the average Gini index (a common measure) of inequality in Eastern Europe is about 3 percentage points higher than in the rest of Europe. This rise in inequality was initially driven by privatization, liberalization, and deregulation reforms, and, more recently, has been amplified by technological change and globalization coupled with relatively ungenerous income and wealth redistribution policies.
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  • Informal employment in emerging and transition economies Updated

    Reducing informality requires better enforcement, more reasonable regulation, and economic growth

    Fabián Slonimczyk, March 2022
    In developing and transition economies as much as half the labor force works in the informal sector (or “shadow economy”). Informal firms congest infrastructure and other public services but do not contribute the taxes needed to finance them. Informal workers are unprotected against such negative shocks as ill-health, but for certain groups there can be scarce opportunities to enter the formal sector meaning informal employment is the only feasible option. Reducing informality requires better enforcement, more reasonable regulation, and economic growth.
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  • Cash wage payments in transition economies: Consequences of envelope wages Updated

    Reducing under-reporting of salaries requires institutional changes

    In transition economies, a significant number of companies reduce their tax and social contributions by paying their staff an official salary, described in a registered formal employment agreement, and an extra, undeclared “envelope wage,” via a verbal unwritten agreement. The consequences include a loss of government income and a lack of fair play for lawful companies. For employees, accepting under-reported wages reduces their access to credit and their social protections. Addressing this issue will help increase the quality of working conditions, strengthen trade unions, and reduce unfair competition.
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  • Alcoholism and mortality in Eastern Europe Updated

    Excessive drinking is the main cause of high male mortality rates, but the problem can be addressed

    Evgeny Yakovlev, August 2021
    Eastern European countries, particularly former Soviet Union economies, traditionally have the highest rates of alcohol consumption in the world. Consequently, they also have some of the highest male mortality rates in the world. Regulation can be effective in significantly decreasing excessive drinking and its related negative effects, such as low labor productivity and high rates of mortality. Understanding the consequences of specific regulatory measures and what tools should be used to combat excessive alcohol consumption is essential for designing effective policies.
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  • Inequality and informality in transition and emerging countries Updated

    A bidirectional relationship between informality and inequality exists; in transition and emerging countries, higher informality decreases inequality

    Roberto Dell'Anno, April 2021
    Higher inequality reduces capital accumulation and increases the informal economy, which creates additional employment opportunities for low-skilled and deprived people. As a result, informal employment leads to beneficial effects on income distribution by providing sources of income for unemployed and marginalized workers. Despite this positive feedback, informality raises problems for public finances and biases official statistics, reducing the effectiveness of redistributive policies. Policymakers should consider the links between inequality and informality because badly designed informality-reducing policies may increase inequality.
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  • Encouraging women’s labor force participation in transition countries Updated

    Government policies can stimulate female labor force participation if coherent and well thought-out

    Norberto Pignatti, November 2020
    Increasing women's labor force participation is important to sustainable economic development, especially in economies with highly educated women and an aging population. Women's participation varies across transition countries, driven by such economic and social factors as traditional views of gender roles and limited government support for caregivers. Still, in all countries there is clear scope for policies aimed at increasing women's participation. In particular, in countries where women's educational attainment is already high, policies to support a better work–life balance and female entrepreneurship look particularly promising.
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  • The labor market in South Africa, 2000–2017

    The legacy of apartheid and demand for skills have resulted in high, persistent inequality and high unemployment

    The South African economy was on a positive growth trajectory from 2003 to 2008 but, like other economies around the world, it was not spared from the effects of the 2008 global financial crisis. The economy has not recovered and employment in South Africa has not yet returned to its pre-crisis levels. Overall inequality has not declined, and median wages seem to have stagnated in the post-apartheid period. Labor force participation has been stable and although progress has been made, gender imbalances persist.
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  • International trade regulation and job creation Updated

    Trade policy is not an employment policy and should not be expected to have major effects on overall employment

    Trade regulation can create jobs in the sectors it protects or promotes, but almost always at the expense of destroying a roughly equivalent number of jobs elsewhere in the economy. At a product-specific or micro level and in the short term, controlling trade could reduce the offending imports and save jobs, but for the economy as a whole and in the long term, this has neither theoretical support nor evidence in its favor. Given that protection may have other—usually adverse—effects, understanding the difficulties in using it to manage employment is important for economic policy.
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