IZA World of Labor

Transition and emerging economies

The transformation of economic systems from plan to market in transition and emerging economies has significant consequences not only for labor markets in those countries. Their lessons can also guide the development of institutions and labor reform policies in other countries.

  • The changing nature of jobs in Central and Eastern Europe

    Restructuring and upskilling prevents job polarization but may leave countries vulnerable to routine-biased technical change

    Piotr Lewandowski, April 2017
    Job polarization can pose serious problems for emerging economies that rely on worker reallocation from low-skilled to middle-skilled jobs to converge toward advanced economies. Evidence from Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries shows that structural change and education expansion can prevent polarization, as they enable a shift from manual to cognitive work and prevent the “hollowing out” of middle-skilled jobs. However, in CEE countries they have also led to a high routine cognitive content of jobs, which makes such jobs susceptible to automation and computerization in the future.
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  • Female poverty and intrahousehold inequality in transition economies

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

    Luca Piccoli, March 2017
    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 intra-household 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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  • Upgrading technology in Central and Eastern European economies

    Existing policies in Eastern Europe will not sufficiently promote technological innovation

    Slavo Radosevic, February 2017
    The future growth of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) depends on upgrading technology, exporting and coupling domestic technology efforts while improving their position in global value chains. Current policies in the region are not geared to these tasks, despite the availability of huge financial opportunities in the form of EU structural funds. Existing policies are overly focused on research and development (R&D) and neglect sources of productivity growth, such as management practices, skills, quality, and engineering. The challenge is how to design industrial and innovation policies so that they promote modernization and drive structural change.
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  • Does religiosity explain economic outcomes?

    Understanding religiosity is crucial to informed policy making

    Olga Popova, February 2017
    Most religions in transition economies were marginalized by their former communist regimes. Today, some of these countries are experiencing a revival of religiosity, while others are prone to secularization. Religious norms affect individual decision making with respect to human capital investment, economic reforms, marital stability, employment, and other contexts. This implies that the interests of both religious and non-religious communities may differ and must be taken into account when designing and implementing economic policies, which is a challenge for policymakers.
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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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  • Foreign direct investment and employment in transition economies

    Has FDI into transition countries had the expected economic effects?

    Saul Estrin, January 2017
    Foreign direct investment (FDI) has been argued to improve company performance and stimulate growth and employment. Transition economies of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) faced a desperate need to join the global economy, to improve their competitiveness and to create jobs through FDI. So, did the FDI come, and did it deliver what was expected? FDI levels were high for CEE, and for some resource-rich transition countries (e.g. Russia and some of Central Asia), but primarily delivered significant benefits (e.g. employment) for the former. FDI arrived much later to other transition countries (e.g. the former Soviet republics and the Balkans) and had much less impact.
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  • Should agricultural employment in transition economies be encouraged?

    Encouraging agricultural employment might reduce rural–urban migration and reduce hidden rural unemployment

    Zvi Lerman, January 2017
    The increase in agricultural employment in Central Asia and Trans-Caucasus over the last two decades has had a detrimental effect on agricultural labor productivity and rural family incomes. Transition countries in the former USSR cannot, however, encourage exits from agriculture (as, for instance, in east Germany or the Czech Republic) due to the risk of mass rural–urban migration, which may exacerbate growing urban unemployment. With large rural populations, state budgets would be unable to deal with a new wave of unemployed in urban areas.
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  • Childcare expansion and mothers’ employment in post-socialist countries

    A range of other policies and changes are needed for childcare expansion to increase mothers’ labor supply

    Anna Lovász, December 2016
    In 2002, the EU set targets for expanding childcare coverage, but most of the post-socialist countries are behind schedule. While childcare expansion places a heavy financial burden on governments, low participation in the labor force by mothers, especially those with children under the age of three, implies a high potential impact. However, the effectiveness of childcare expansion may be limited by some common characteristics of these countries: family policies that do not support women’s labor market re-entry, few flexible work opportunities, and cultural norms about family and gender roles shaped by the institutional and economic legacy of socialism.
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  • The effects of privatization on exports and jobs

    Can the privatization of state-owned enterprises generate a virtuous cycle between exports and employment?

    Yasuyuki Todo, November 2016
    The privatization of state-owned enterprises (SOE) in transition economies has often been found to improve employment and productivity of privatized SOEs, despite policymakers’ fears regarding possible job cuts. This positive effect can be enhanced if privatization also promotes firms’ exports. A recent firm-level analysis of China reveals that privatization has indeed a positive effect on export propensity, employment, and productivity in both the short and long term. The effect mostly stems from changes in firms’ attitudes about profits and risks due to competitive pressure.
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  • The mortality crisis in transition economies

    Social disruption, acute psychosocial stress, and excessive alcohol consumption raise mortality rates during transition to a market economy

    Giovanni Andrea Cornia, October 2016
    Large and sudden economic and political changes, even if potentially positive, often entail enormous social and health costs. Such transitory costs are generally underestimated or neglected by incumbent governments. The mortality crisis experienced by the former communist countries of Europe—which caused ten million excess deaths from 1990 to 2000—is a good example of how the transition from a low to a high socio-economic level can generate huge social costs if it is not actively, effectively, and equitably managed from a public policy perspective.
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