Labour markets

Hideo Owan, 19 September 2019

Many Japanese companies complain about a shortage of qualified workers. This column argues that the difficulty is partly driven by flawed recruitment practices and suggests improvements to the hiring process. For example, customised aptitude tests and team-based structured interviews could help remedy the situation. 

Guo Xu, Hans-Joachim Voth, 16 September 2019

People in power may use their discretion to hire and promote family members and others in their network. While some empirical evidence shows that such patronage is bad, its theoretical effects are ambiguous – discretion over appointments can be used for good or bad. This column examines the battle performance of British Royal Navy officers during the Age of Sail and finds that patronage ‘worked’. On average, officers with connections to the top of the naval hierarchy did better on every possible measure of performance than those without a family connection. Where top administrators have internalised meritocratic values and competition punishes underperformance, patronage may enhance overall performance by selecting better individuals.

Philipp Ager, Katherine Eriksson, Casper Worm Hansen, Lars Lønstrup, 15 September 2019

Recent research has demonstrated that the location of economic activity is not uniquely determined by locational fundamentals and multiple steady states do exist. One important question in this context is under what circumstances a large enough historical shock can change the spatial distribution of economic activity. This column uses the example of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake to demonstrate that high geographic mobility is one of the reasons why a temporary but large shock can influence the evolution of relative city sizes even in the longer run. 

James Bessen, 12 September 2019

Do industries shed or create jobs when they adopt new labour-saving technologies? This column shows that manufacturing employment grew along with productivity for a century or more, and only later decreased. It argues that the changing nature of demand was behind this pattern, which led to market saturation. This implies that the main impact of automation in the near future may be a major reallocation of jobs, not necessarily massive job losses.

Andrea Ichino, Martin Olsson, Barbara Petrongolo, Peter Skogman Thoursie, 11 September 2019

Gender identity norms are possible drivers of persistent gender inequalities in the labour market, but the extent to which such norms restrict the behaviour of couples is debated. This column examines how households in Sweden changed their allocation of home production in response to the introduction of a tax credit that altered the marginal tax rates (and the relative take-home pay) in different ways for spouses in couples. It finds that immigrant couples, who tend to come from countries with more traditional gender norms than Sweden, responded more strongly to a reduction in the husband’s tax rate than the wife’s. By not responding to wives’ tax cuts, these couples may forgo as much as £2,000 per year in household disposable income.

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