Labour markets

Andrea Asoni, Andrea Gilli, Mauro Gilli, Tino Sanandaji, 19 September 2021

There is a common perception that the US military predominantly recruits individuals from the most disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds with limited other career options. This column argues that this is no longer the case. Skill-biased technological change has led the US military to recruit more higher-skilled personnel since the 1990s, and while in 1979 the probability of joining the military was clearly higher for those with lower-than-average family income, for the 1997 cohort the probability was much more evenly distributed.

Ruo Shangguan, Jed DeVaro, Hideo Owan, 18 September 2021

It has been argued that when workers are already working long weeks, adding more hours can reduce productivity. This column tests this argument using evidence from Japan. The authors find that long working hours of key team members harm team productivity. In contrast, shorter hours cause the opposite effect, perhaps because workers recover from fatigue and arrive for work with increased energy and focus.

Wouter den Haan, Lukas B. Freund, Pontus Rendahl, 11 September 2021

It has been argued that increased uncertainty can worsen unemployment if employers prefer to wait and postpone job creation. However, under the dominant theory of unemployment – the search-and-matching model – the value of waiting plays no role. This column proposes an amended model which relaxes some of the theoretical assumptions, and shows that an increase in perceived uncertainty does indeed increase the value of waiting, thus reducing job creation.

Kenta Ikeuchi, Kyoji Fukao, Cristiano Perugini, 09 September 2021

In contrast to other comparable developing countries, wage inequality in Japan has remained stable in recent decades. However, this trend belies the substantial variation in wage gaps at the firm level. This column uses detailed worker and firm microdata to study how firm characteristics affect the evolution and variability of Japan’s college wage gap. It finds that larger establishments and those with a larger share of regular workers exhibit higher college wage premiums. These traits likely signify more productive environments with greater capacity to attract and keep highly educated employees with better unobservable characteristics. 

Hyunbae Chun, Kyoji Fukao, Hyeog Ug Kwon, Jungsoo Park, 06 September 2021

In many developed countries, real wage growth has lagged behind labour productivity growth in recent decades. This column uses data from Japan and Korea to study the relationship between labour productivity growth, real wage growth, and labour’s terms of trade, defined as the ratio of the consumer price index to the GDP deflator. It shows that the main reason for the real wage-labour productivity growth gap is a large decline in labour’s terms of trade. Raising real wages in the future will require policies to support the business environment and develop high value-added sectors. 

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