Labour markets

Philipp Ager, Benedikt Herz, 16 May 2019

The transition from high to low fertility rates is regarded as one of the most important determinants of sustainable long-run growth. But despite its importance, there is still an ongoing debate about its causes and timing. This column demonstrates that a sustained shift from agriculture to manufacturing contributed to the fertility decline in the American South at the turn of the 20th century. 

Henrik Kleven, Camille Landais, Johanna Posch, Andreas Steinhauer, Josef Zweimüller, 14 May 2019

Despite considerable convergence over time, substantial gender inequality persists in all countries. This column examines the labour market consequences of having children for women and men in six developed countries that span a wide range of policies and norms. The analysis reveals some striking similarities across countries, but also sharp differences in the magnitude of the effects. It goes on to discuss the potential role of family policies and gender norms in explaining the cross-country evidence.

Alison Booth, Jungmin Lee, 11 May 2019

The gender pay gap in South Korea is the highest in the OECD and South Korean women are under-represented in public life. This column uses data from a long-running TV quiz show to examine whether these gender gaps may be due to differences in male and female attitudes to competition.The results suggest that South Korean girls are increasingly hindered by psychological stress and risk aversion as the pressure from competition increases, and also tend to be less confident in their knowledge than boys. The findings stand in contrast to those from similar studies in the US, possibly due to differences in cultural values.

Bernt Bratsberg, Andreas Moxnes, Oddbjørn Raaum, Karen-Helene Ulltveit-Moe, 09 May 2019

In the aftermath of the eastern enlargement of the EU, Norway experienced one of the largest immigration shocks of the 21st century. This column uses data from the episode to examine the general equilibrium response of wages, labour costs, and industry employment to such shocks. One finding is that although real wages in some occupations decline, the aggregate welfare effects on natives are close to zero as natives switch to higher-wage occupations. The welfare effect on the existing population of immigrants, on the other hand, is negative as they have a comparative advantage in low-wage occupations.

Richard Freeman, Wei Huang, Teng Li, 07 May 2019

Incentive systems that pay workers bonuses based on performance targets are widely used to increase productivity, but they can incur costs to firms from workers gaming the system. This column studies the introduction of one such non-linear incentive system by a major Chinese insurance firm. It finds that the system increased productivity and lowered turnover rates sufficiently to outweigh the gaming costs, and appears to have benefitted both workers and the firm.

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