Labour markets

Mark Stabile, Bénédicte Apouey, Isabelle Solal, 01 April 2020

While some countries have provided assistance to workers unable to perform tasks from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, certain categories of workers tend to fall through the cracks of these programmes. This column reports the findings of a survey of precarious workers in France, including gig economy workers such food delivery bikers. Traditional gig economy workers with incomes under €1,000 a month were more likely to keep working despite the highly elevated health risk of doing so, suggesting that the support in place is leaving some low-income workers exposed.

Giulia Giupponi, Camille Landais, 01 April 2020

Short-time work is a subsidy for temporary reductions in the number of hours worked in firms affected by temporary shocks. Evidence suggests that it can have large positive effects on employment and can be more effective than unemployment insurance or universal transfers. This column discusses how the COVID-19 crisis – with its mandated reduction in hours of work and massive liquidity crunch for firms – is a textbook case for the use of short-time work. Taking into account available evidence and the current situation, it proposes guidelines to effectively implement short-term work.

Hal Varian, 30 March 2020

Several recent studies have considered the impact of automation on labour demand in the coming decades. But demand is only one side of the labour market – the supply of labour will also change dramatically in the next 50 years due to demographic effects. This column discusses how the net outcome for wages and employment will depend on the relative magnitude of these shifts in demand and supply. The supply-side effects due to demographic forces appear likely to be somewhat greater than the demand-side changes due to automation for at least the next decade, and possibly longer.

Shigeru Fujita, Giuseppe Moscarini, Fabien Postel-Vinay, 30 March 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic represents an unprecedented shock to labour markets. This column argues that the policy response should balance two objectives: (1) facilitating prompt reallocation of employment to essential activities during the emergency, and (2) maintaining workers’ attachment to their previous employers, preserving the aggregate stock of firm-specific human capital, and avoiding persistent mismatch, which would propagate the temporary shock into a prolonged stagnation. The authors make concrete labour market policy proposals and compare them with measures currently being implemented on both sides of the Atlantic.

David Martínez Turégano, 30 March 2020

The large differences in labour productivity across EU countries go a long way towards explaining their divergent living standards. To help explain variations in labour productivity, this column focuses on firm size and finds an overall positive relation between firm size and labour productivity. Countries with a distribution skewed to smaller firms – particularly in Southern Europe – show significantly depressed productivity performance. Improving judicial and government efficiency could help stimulate productivity growth in these member states.

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