The cleansing effect of the minimum wage in China
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.
Can higher minimum wages ensure that economic development benefits the poorest without hindering growth? The question is controversial in both academic and policy circles. The recent riots in Bangladesh and Cambodia show that the social demand for a more equal distribution of the benefits of growth is high in developing countries. In China, polls reveal that concerns about inequality have grown as "roughly eight-in-ten have the view that the rich just get richer while the poor get poorer'' (Pewresearch Center 2012). The debate is also heated in developed economies.
Industrial organisation Labour markets
China, wages, firms, productivity
The labour market effects of immigration and emigration in OECD countries
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.
The basis of the debate about migration into European countries is the perception that immigrants are unskilled and poor. Hence, the narrative goes, their arrival hurts the wages and employment prospects of less educated natives. At the same time, very little discussion is devoted to the patterns and economic consequences of emigration from European countries to other developed countries. The recent high-profile book by Collier (2013) is a typical example of this approach. Yet, the data indicate this might all be misguided.
Education Labour markets Migration
OECD, migration, immigration, emigration, wages, complementarities, education
Offshoring and skill-biased technical change
Daron Acemoglu, 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.
Offshoring, the demand for skill, and biased innovations
The rapid rise of offshoring has been one of the most visible trends in the US labour market over the last three decades. Despite its prevalence, the implications for wages and skill premia are still debated (see, for instance, Grossman and Rossi-Hansberg 2008 and Baldwin and Robert-Nicoud 2014).
International trade Labour markets Poverty and income inequality Productivity and Innovation
offshoring, skill-biased technical change, Inequality, wages, technological progress, innovation
Real wages continue to fall in the UK
David Blanchflower, Stephen Machin 29 September 2014
Real wages continue to fall in the UK and elsewhere, yet despite this striking feature of the labour market, some commentators anticipate resurgent pay growth in the near future. This column argues that the absence of any improvement in the UK’s productivity performance – together with evidence that nominal wage growth is flatlining and real wage growth is falling – make it highly unlikely that wage growth is about to explode upwards.
Real wages continue to fall in the UK and elsewhere (Jowett et al. 2014). Yet this striking feature of the labour market still fails to register properly with some commentators. On 9 September 2014, Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, gave a speech at the 146th annual Trades Union Congress in Liverpool, where he argued as follows:
Europe's nations and regions Labour markets Productivity and Innovation
wages, UK, productivity, unions, union membership
Finance sector wages: explaining their high level and growth
Joanne Lindley, Steven McIntosh 21 September 2014
Individuals who work in the finance sector enjoy a significant wage advantage. This column considers three explanations: rent sharing, skill intensity, and task-biased technological change. The UK evidence suggests that rent sharing is the key. The rising premium could then be due to changes in regulation and the increasing complexity of financial products creating more asymmetric information.
Individuals who work in the finance sector enjoy a significant wage advantage. This wage premium has received increasing attention from researchers following the financial crisis, with focus being put onto wages at the top of the distribution in general, and finance sector wages in particular (see Bell and Van Reenen 2010, 2013 for discussion in the UK context). Policymakers have also targeted this wage premium, with the recent implementation of the Capital Requirements Directive capping bankers’ bonuses at a maximum of one year of salary from 2014.
Financial markets Microeconomic regulation
Bankers’ bonuses, banking, wages, Inequality, UK, regulation, asymmetric information, Executive compensation, Finance, task-biased technological change, ICT
Which factors shape the relationship between manufacturing and government wages?
Benedicta Marzinotto, Alessandro Turrini 05 September 2014
The link between public- and private-sector compensation has important implications for the labour market and price competitiveness. This column reports that manufacturing and government wages co-move both in the long and short run, but that the long-run co-movement is much stronger where the government is an important employer. This co-movement tends to break down during fiscal consolidation periods, except in large-government countries. Moreover, manufacturing wages exhibit a stronger co-movement with productivity in countries where government wages are set via collective bargaining.
During the crisis, numerous Eurozone countries have introduced public wage freezes or cuts as part of an attempt to contain rising fiscal deficits and debts. Some of these countries also had to rebalance their economies, and improve price competitiveness. The relevant question is therefore whether government wages, whilst relevant for fiscal outcomes, may also exert some impact on private-sector labour costs and price competitiveness.
wages, government, public-sector pay, collective bargaining, manufacturing, Public sector, private sector, competitiveness
How immigration benefits natives despite labour market imperfections and income redistribution
Michele Battisti, Gabriel Felbermayr, Giovanni Peri, Panu Poutvaara 08 August 2014
Immigration continues to be a hotly debated topic in most OECD countries. Economic models emphasising the benefits of immigration for natives have typically neglected unemployment and redistribution – precisely the things voters are most concerned about. This column analyses the effects of immigration in a world with labour market rigidities and income redistribution. In two-thirds of the 20 countries analysed, both high-skilled and low-skilled natives would benefit from a small increase in immigration from current levels. The average welfare gains from immigration are 1.25% and 1.00% for high- and low-skilled natives, respectively.
A fierce policy debate with little insight from economists
Labour markets Migration
Labour Markets, unemployment, wages, immigration, redistribution, welfare, Skill Complementarities
Sourcing foreign inputs to improve firm performance
Maria Bas, Vanessa Strauss-Kahn 14 July 2014
The rise of trade in intermediate inputs is well documented, but its role in shaping domestic economies is not yet completely understood. This column presents evidence from French firms on the effects of importing intermediate inputs. Firms importing more varieties of intermediate inputs increased their productivity and exported more varieties. Foreign inputs from the most advanced economies have the strongest effect on firm productivity, but imported inputs from all countries help raise the number of export varieties.
Should trade policy fight or promote imports of intermediate inputs? While several studies have shown the recent increase in imports of intermediate goods, their role in shaping domestic economies is not yet completely understood. Following the work of Feenstra and Hanson (1996), a large literature focuses on the impact of imported intermediate inputs on employment and inequality. It concludes that, like outsourcing, imported intermediate inputs have a role (although limited) in explaining job losses and wage reductions.
employment, productivity, wages, Inequality, trade, exports, outsourcing, imports, global value chains, Intermediate inputs
Globalisation, job security, and wages
Kerem Cosar, Nezih Guner, James R Tybout 07 July 2014
Trade liberalisations are often accompanied by labour market reforms, making it difficult to isolate their effects. This column discusses the effects of trade liberalisation, globalisation, and labour-market reforms on the Colombian labour market. Reduced trade frictions increased cross-firm wage inequality and shifted the firm-size distribution rightward, with offsetting effects on overall wage inequality. Average income increased, but the gains were concentrated among employees of large, productive firms with access to export markets. Greater trade openness also increased job turnover.
How does increased openness to international trade affect workers’ wages and job security? This question is central to the public debate concerning the effects of globalisation, but convincing quantitative answers have been difficult to come by. One fundamental reason is that major trade liberalisation episodes have often coincided with labour reforms (Heckman and Pages 2004). Colombia is a case in point. As Figure 1 shows, this country experienced deindustrialisation, higher job turnover rates, and heightened wage inequality in the years following its 1986–1991 trade liberalisation.
International trade Labour markets
productivity, unemployment, globalisation, wages, trade liberalisation, Inequality, labour market reforms, exports, Colombia, job security
How highly educated immigrants raise native wages
Giovanni Peri, Kevin Shih, Chad Sparber 29 May 2014
Immigrants to the US are drawn from both ends of the education spectrum. This column looks at the effect of highly educated immigrants – in particular, those with degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics – on total factor productivity growth. The authors find that foreign STEM workers can explain 30% to 60% of US TFP growth between 1990 and 2010.
Immigration to the US has risen tremendously in recent decades. Though media attention and popular discourse often focus on illegal immigrants or the high foreign-born presence among less-educated workers, the data show that immigrants are drawn from both ends of the education spectrum. At the low end, immigrants grew from 5% of workers with a high school degree or less in 1970 to 20.8% in 2010. At the high end, the figure rose from 7.3% to 18.2% for those with graduate degrees over the same period.1
Labour markets Migration Productivity and Innovation
US, growth, productivity, wages, immigration, innovation, complementarities, STEM