Giuseppe Berlingieri, Patrick Blanchenay, Chiara Criscuolo, 15 May 2017

Some firms pay well while others don’t; and some are highly productive while many aren’t. This column presents new firm-level data on the increasing dispersion of wages and productivity in both the manufacturing and services sectors in 16 OECD countries. Wage inequalities are growing between firms, even those operating in the same sector – and they are linked to growing differences between high and low productivity firms. Both globalisation and technological progress (notably information and communications technologies) influence these outcomes – as do policies and institutions such as minimum wages, employment protection legislation, unions, and processes of wage-setting.

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.

Sergei Guriev, Biagio Speciale, Michele Tuccio, 13 September 2016

A common explanation for the growth in unemployment in southern Europe after the Great Recession is lack of flexibility in over-regulated labour markets. This column examines wage adjustment in regulated and unregulated labour markets in Italy during the recent crisis. Using data on immigrant workers, it shows that before the crisis wages in the formal and informal sectors moved in parallel. During the crisis, however, formal wages did not adjust downwards, while informal labour wages did. Greater flexibility in wages in the formal market could slow the decline in employment.

Gianni De Fraja, Giovanni Facchini, John Gathergood, 03 August 2016

The positive relationship between wages and firm performance is well established in the literature, but much less is known about the relationship in the university context. This column addresses this gap by matching professors' wages with departmental performance measures from the UK’s Research Excellence Framework. Across the full range of academic disciplines, departments that pay their professors more do appear to perform better. This is driven primarily by the relationship between salary and publications output, with no evidence of a positive relationship between salary and research impact.

Denis Fougère, Erwan Gautier, Sébastien Roux, 28 May 2016

In light of the Eurozone Crisis, some countries have implemented reforms to collective wage bargaining institutions, which can be responsible for wage rigidities that are problematic in the face of rising unemployment. This column describes collective wage bargaining in France and how national minimum wage increases are transmitted to wage floors set by industry-level agreements. An increase in the national minimum wage leads to an increase in negotiated industry-level wage floors, which firms then use as references for their wage policy. This might partly explain why French base wages have continued to increase despite recent rising unemployment.

Luca Fumarco, Giambattista Rossi, 23 April 2016

A vast cross-discipline literature provides evidence that — in both education and sports — the youngest children in their age group are usually at a disadvantage because of within-group-age maturity differences, known as the ‘relative age effect’. This column asks whether this effect could last into adulthood. Looking at Italian professional footballers’ wages, the evidence suggests that the relative age effect is inescapable.

André Sapir, 12 February 2016

Misalignments of real exchange rates continue to be the most visible and painful symptom of asymmetric shocks within the Eurozone. An important factor behind such misalignment is the difference in national wage formation and bargaining systems, especially between core and periphery members. This column argues that all members need to have institutions that ensure wage developments are in line with productivity developments. This would eliminate an important source of asymmetric behaviour and reduce resistance to EZ-wide fiscal mechanisms capable of absorbing asymmetric shocks.

John Gibson, David McKenzie, Halahingao Rohorua, Steven Stillman, 26 January 2016

Wage differences across countries offer individuals the possibility of huge wage gains through moving abroad. This column uses data on lottery-selected migrants from Tonga to New Zealand to assess the effect on productivity and wages for workers moving from a poor country to a rich country. These randomly selected workers appear to be immediately more productive, and their wage gains are stable over time. It seems that cross-country wage differences are due to better institutions, higher quality capital, and other factors in rich countries that serve to raise the productivity of all workers, whether natives or migrants.

James Feyrer, Erin Mansur, Bruce Sacerdote, 16 November 2015

Fracking has driven an oil and natural gas boom in the US over the past decade. This column examines the impact these mining activities have had on local and regional economies. US counties enjoy significant economic benefits, including increased wages and new job creation. These effects grow as the geographic radius is extended to include neighbouring areas in the region. The results suggest that the fracking boom provided some insulation for these areas during the Great Recession, and lowered national unemployment by as much as 0.5%.

Luca Flabbi, Mario Macis, Andrea Moro, Fabiano Schivardi, 24 April 2015

Despite the convergence between men and women in many labour market indicators, women are still vastly underrepresented at the boardroom level. Using Italian data, this column presents new evidence on the impact of having a female CEO on the distribution of wages for male and female workers within firms. Female CEOs are shown to reduce the gender wage gap at the top of the wage distribution but widen it at the bottom. The authors also show that firms with female CEOs perform better, the higher the fraction of women in the firm’s workforce.

Juan Carluccio, Denis Fougère, Erwan Gautier, 14 April 2015

International trade has significant effects on domestic labour demand. It opens up new markets for export, but also creates opportunities for off-shoring. This column presents the results of a study on trade, wages and collective bargaining using data on French manufacturing firms. Both exporting and offshoring are found to have positive effects on wages, with collective bargaining agreements, particularly those at the firm-level, seeing greater wage gains for all types of worker.

Jason Furman, 20 February 2015

The US economy has strengthened considerably in recent years, presenting an opportunity to address the 40-year stagnation in incomes for the middle class. This column provides historical and international context for the key factors affecting middle-class incomes: productivity growth, labour force participation, and income inequality. It also outlines President Obama’s approach to economic policies – what he terms “middle-class economics” – which is designed to improve all three.

Kirill Shakhnov, 17 January 2015

The rapid growth of the US financial sector has driven policy debate on whether it is socially desirable. This column examines the trade-off between finance and entrepreneurship, and links the growth of finance to rising wealth inequality. Although financial intermediation helps allocate capital efficiently, people choosing a career in finance do not internalise the negative effect on the pool of talented entrepreneurs. This mechanism can explain the simultaneous growth of wealth inequality and finance in the US, and why more unequal countries have larger financial sectors.

Masayuki Morikawa, 23 November 2014

The appropriate level of public sector wages is debated frequently in every country, and the debate has intensified in the wake of the global financial crisis. This column presents evidence that regional wage differentials in Japan are greater in the private sector than in the public sector. In regions where public sector wages are relatively high, skilled individuals may self-select into public sector jobs. At the same time, public sector employers in metropolitan regions such as Tokyo may have difficulty in hiring high quality employees.

Charles Goodhart, Philipp Erfurth, 03 November 2014

There has been a long-term downward trend in labour’s share of national income, depressing both demand and inflation, and thus prompting ever more expansionary monetary policies. This column argues that, while understandable in a short-term business cycle context, this has exacerbated longer-term trends, increasing inequality and financial distortions. Perhaps the most fundamental problem has been over-reliance on debt finance. The authors propose policies to raise the share of equity finance in housing markets; such reforms could be extended to other sectors of the economy.

Florian Mayneris, Sandra Poncet, 13 October 2014

Minimum wage laws are often shown to have little impact on employment as the labour price rise can be offset by lower turnover, lower markups, and heightened efficiency, or ‘cleansing’ effects. This column shows that in a fast-growing economy like China, there is a ‘cleansing’ effect of labour market standards. Minimum wage growth allows more productive firms to replace the least productive ones and forces incumbent firms to become more competitive. Both mechanisms boost the aggregate efficiency of the economy.

Frédéric Docquier, Çağlar Özden, Giovanni Peri, 06 October 2014

Researchers have devoted little attention to the effects of emigration from OECD countries, and the absence of detailed emigration data is the main culprit. Using a new and improved migration database, this column analyses the effect of migration on the wages of less educated native workers. The results suggest that, as far as labour market outcomes of less educated workers are concerned, governments should worry less about new arrivals and more about the potential consequences of their high emigration rates.

Daron Acemoğlu, Gino Gancia, Fabrizio Zilibotti, 30 September 2014

Offshoring of production can have a deep impact on the wages and welfare of workers with different abilities through its effect on technological progress. This column argues that, when labour is sufficiently cheap abroad, firms have incentives to offshore low-skill tasks and invest in skill-biased technologies at home. Over time, however, offshoring raises foreign wages. This increases demand for all firms and makes innovations complementing low-skill workers more profitable. As a result, offshoring can eventually lead to higher wages for everybody and less inequality.