Labour markets

Gene Grossman, Elhanan Helpman, Ezra Oberfield, Thomas Sampson, 11 November 2017

Many countries have experienced both a slowdown in aggregate productivity growth and a decline in labour’s share of national income in recent years. This column argues that the productivity slowdown may have caused the decline in labour’s income. Calibrating the authors’ model to US data suggests that a one percentage point decline in the productivity growth rate accounts for between half and all of the observed decline in the US labour share.

Christian Dippel, Daniel Trefler, 05 November 2017

One way employers can compel workers to accept contracts they otherwise would not accept is by limiting the outside options for those workers. This column explores this facet of labour coercion in the context of post-Emancipation Caribbean islands prior to WWI. On islands where freed slaves had options other than plantation work, sugar exports fell dramatically. Where geographic factors limited these outside options, such as Antigua and Barbados, the plantation system continued to prosper.

Rüdiger Bachmann, Christian Bayer, Christian Merkl, Stefan Seth, Heiko Stüber, Felix Wellschmied, 01 November 2017

Many establishments both hire and lay off within a short time window, resulting in ‘churn’. This column uses a newly constructed dataset to show that the rate of churn in Germany is high and can be up to 40% greater in booms compared to recessions. Both establishments that are shrinking and those that are growing hire more and lay off more in booms than in recessions.

Russell Cooper, Moritz Meyer, Immo Schott, 28 October 2017

A major factor behind the ‘German miracle’ – which saw GDP collapse by almost 7% during the Global Crisis but unemployment increase by less than 1% – was a ‘short-time work’ policy that incentivised firms to reduce workers' hours rather than laying off workers. This column explores the effectiveness of the policy and the potentially negative effects on output and productivity. In the short term, short-time work prevented steeper falls in output and employment. However, it also affected the reallocation of labour between more and less productive firms, leading to medium-term productivity losses.

Robert Duval-Hernández, Lei Fang, Liwa Rachel Ngai, 23 October 2017

Economists have tended to focus on the role of taxation in accounting for the wide variation in average hours worked across OECD countries. This column argues that the differences are driven by women, particularly women without a college degree. As taxation rises, women are more likely than men to reduce the hours they work. Social subsidies for family care reduce the price of substitutable market services, resulting in women working more.

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