Lionel Fontagné, Gianluca Santoni, 20 November 2016

A key driver of productivity is ease of resource allocation. This column uses firm-level data for France to show that misallocation has a spatial dimension: resource allocation and the associated effect on productivity are related not only to firms’ characteristics, but also to the environment in which they operate. Denser commuting zones seem to offer a better match between employers and employees, leading to more productive firms.

Dale Jorgenson, Mun S. Ho, Jon Samuels, 01 November 2016

There has been speculation that the low employment rates for younger and less-educated workers in the US reflect a ‘new normal’. This column uses detailed new US data to project output, productivity, and employment rates over the next decade. The results indicate that US economic growth will continue to recover from the Great Recession through the resumption of growth in productivity and labour input. The recovery of employment rates for less-educated and younger workers will make an important contribution to future economic growth.

Laurie Reijnders, Marcel Timmer, Xianjia Ye, 25 October 2016

Offshoring and biases in technical change can have observationally equivalent effects on domestic labour demand, which precludes a quantification of their relative impacts. This column shows how biased technical change can be identified by studying global value chains that include all stages of production, both at home and abroad. It finds that technical change has been strongly biased against less-skilled workers, and in favour of high-skilled labour and capital.

Julián Messina, Oskar Nordström Skans, Mikael Carlsson, 23 October 2016

While standard microeconomic theory suggests that firms have no power over setting wages when markets are perfectly competitive, this view obviously clashes with the perceptions of the casual observer. This column uses data from Sweden to investigate the extent to which differences in firms’ pay are related to differences in physical productivity. It finds that firms that benefit from positive productivity shocks increase the wages of incumbent workers, and in particular firms among which there is substantial labour mobility. The evolution of productivity among such firms appears to be a crucial determinant of workers’ wages.

Elisa Gamberoni, Christine Gartner, Claire Giordano, Paloma Lopez-Garcia, 21 October 2016

Economists have argued that corruption in business can potentially grease the wheels of an economy. This column presents evidence from nine Central and Eastern European countries on the effects of bribes on the efficiency with which production factors are allocated across firms. The impact of corruption on capital and labour misallocation is larger the smaller the country, the lower its political stability and the weaker the quality of its regulation. This is evidence against the ‘grease the wheels’ hypothesis.

Harald Hau, Yi Huang, Gewei Wang, 17 October 2016

Business book writers claim that management quality of some type matters when creating successful firms. But this conventional wisdom has largely defied serious empirical analysis. This column looks at statistical evidence on the productivity response of Chinese firms to minimum wage shocks, and finds that better-managed firms adapt better to adverse competitive shocks. This suggests that management quality matters for this type of adaptability

Isamu Yamamoto, 14 October 2016

There is ample empirical evidence showing that poor mental health is increasing, but the impact of this on long-run productivity and its implications for the labour market are not well researched. This column outlines two ways in which labour market research can contribute to the study of the impact on mental health of working conditions. It also identifies several channels related to working conditions that affect mental health, and argues that deteriorating mental health adversely affects corporate performance in the long run.

Peter Gal, Alexander Hijzen, 27 September 2016

Product market reforms are seen as a way to boost output in advanced economies, but we know little about their short-term impact. This column presents data from 18 advanced economies that reveal large differences in the potential upside of reform depending on the sector in which a firm operates, its size, and its financial health.

Enrique Fernández-Macías, Martina Bisello, 25 September 2016

A tasks approach to labour market analysis can contribute to a better understanding of structural change and employment trends. However, its narrow focus on a few specific types of task content and its neglect of the social aspects of production can limit the usefulness of this approach. This column presents a new framework for conceptualising and measuring tasks, and discusses an application to Europe.

Achyuta Adhvaryu, Namrata Kala, Anant Nyshadham, 27 August 2016

Energy-efficient technologies are an increasingly relevant policy priority, given growing consensus on the need to tackle climate change. This column examines the productivity benefits of adopting one such technology – LED lighting – for manufacturing firms in India. It finds that improved productivity resulting from LED lighting’s lower heat emissions makes adopting such technology far less costly than previous anticipated, particularly for labour-intensive firms in hot climates. 

Wolfgang Keller, Javier Andres Santiago, Carol Shiue, 23 August 2016

In international trade theory, countries are often treated as homogenous regions, with no account taken of their internal geography. This column uses evidence from China’s Treaty Port Era to show how domestic trade frictions shape welfare gains from trade. Gains from new technologies that lower trade costs are shared, but the gains are not evenly distributed. Lower trade costs can also mean lower welfare for productivity leaders, who may be replaced by low-cost suppliers from less productive regions as the costs of transport decline.

Sari Pekkala Kerr, William Kerr, 10 August 2016

Increased hostility to immigration has been a key driver of the rise of right-wing populist movements across the world. At the same time, local governments – notably in the US – have designed work programmes to attract immigrant entrepreneurs to their areas. This column explores the types of businesses founded by immigrants and their growth patterns, and examines how these outcomes relate to immigrants’ age at arrival to the US. Immigrant entrepreneurs experience greater volatility – they fail more frequently, but those that persist experience greater employment growth than their native counterparts. 

Decio Coviello, Andrea Guglielmo, Giancarlo Spagnolo, 07 August 2016

Open competition is regarded as a crucial ‘preventative tool’ that limits government discretion and abuse of power when awarding procurement contracts. However, various studies have identified numerous drawbacks to using open auctions when contracting is imperfect. This column discusses the effects of increased buyer discretion on public procurement in Italy. Increased discretion raises the number of repeated wins by contractors, suggesting long-term relationships between buyers and sellers. Furthermore, productive buyer-seller relationships appear to outnumber corrupt ones.

Stefano Scarpetta, Mark Keese, Paul Swaim, 25 July 2016

The labour market recovery in OECD countries has been steady but slow since the Great Recession. More worrying is the fate of wage growth over the same period. This column assesses the implications of stagnation in the labour market for growth, wages, and inequality. It finds that structural weaknesses in labour market performance have become more visible as markets recover from the Great Recession. The policy response must include macroeconomic policies aimed at strengthening investment, and structural policies to support growth while nudging workers towards higher-skilled jobs.

Toshihiro Okubo, Tetsuji Okazaki, Eiichi Tomiura, 19 July 2016

In the context of increased global trade and accompanying competition, firms are increasingly engaged in industrial clusters. This column uses firm-level transaction data to analyse the impact of firms’ relationships with financial institutions on their networking within clusters. Firms participating in government-supported cluster programmes increase their transaction networks significantly faster than those not in clusters. The column also finds that firms with expanding networks are mainly financed by regional banks, not national or global ones.

Tom Chang, Tal Gross, Joshua Graff Zivin, Matthew Neidell, 15 July 2016

The health effects of pollution in terms of hospitalisations, mortality and morbidity are well researched, but not so much is known about the less severe effects of pollution on workers’ health. This column uses evidence from China to analyse the impact of pollution on productivity, finding that high levels of pollution reduce the productivity even of indoor workers. Reducing pollution is not just welfare-improving for society, it is also of financial benefit to the economy.

Masayuki Morikawa, 10 July 2016

The service sector accounts for much of the output of many advanced economies, and maximising the sector’s output while also minimising regional disparities is an important policy challenge. This column analyses productivity in service sectors in Japan, focusing on economies of urban density. The higher the employment density of the cities in which service firms are located, the higher their productivity, but firms relocating to such cities negatively impacts regional disparity. Further, considerable differences in productivity improvements among sectors indicate there certain industries should be promoted in large cities, and others in smaller cities with lower employment density.

Nobuya Fukugawa, Akira Goto, 08 July 2016

Local public technology centres (Kosetsushi) in Japan have demonstrated notable success in fostering the development of regional industries. This column reports the results of the first branch-level survey of Kosetsushi, focusing on three areas: manufacturing, foods, and design. Kosetsushi are found to help clients through diverse, tailored technical consultations and, increasingly, by acting as a network hub for the transfer of symbolic and analytical knowledge. These findings have particular relevance for regional governments attempting to foster innovation through similar institutions.

Daron Acemoglu, Pascual Restrepo, 05 July 2016

Many economists throughout history have been proven wrong in predicting that technological progress will cause irreversible damage to the labour market. This column shows that so far, the labour market has always adapted to the replacement of jobs with capital, using evidence of new types of skilled jobs between 1970 and 2007. As long as the rate of automation of jobs by machines and the creation of new complex tasks for workers are balanced, there will be no major labour market decline. The nature of new technology, and its impact on future innovation potential, has important implications for labour stability.

Lukas Menkhoff, Lucio Sarno , Maik Schmeling, Andreas Schrimpf, 30 June 2016

Determining ‘currency value’ is a century-old topic on which there is little consensus among economists. This column proposes a novel way of adjusting real exchange rates for key country-specific fundamentals to obtain better gauges of currency valuation levels. Adjusting for productivity, export quality, foreign assets, and output gaps is shown to isolate information related to currency risk premia across countries. This can serve as a more precise input into investment and policy decisions.

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