Fabian Eckert, Sharat Ganapati, Conor Walsh, 26 September 2019

In recent years, wages for highly skilled workers have grown rapidly. Using US data between 1980 and 2015, this column studies a group of service industries that are skill-intensive, widely traded, and have recently seen explosive wage growth. It shows that, unlike any other sector, the wage growth in these industries was strongly biased toward the densest local labour markets and the highest-paying firms. These developments alone explain 30% of the increase in inequality between the 50th and 90th percentiles of the wage distribution. 

Yukiko Asai, 05 September 2019

One factor exacerbating gender gaps in employment is the cost of affording maternity and parental leave to women as primary caregivers. This column analyses the relationship between the costs of providing parental leave and labour demand for childbearing-age women. As evidenced by a series of reforms in Japan in the last two decades, reducing the burden of parental leave costs from firms to social insurance systems increases both labour demand and starting wages for such workers.

Benjamin Friedrich, Lisa Laun, Costas Meghir, Luigi Pistaferri, 08 August 2019

We know little about how much fluctuations in a firm’s fortunes are passed on in wages. The column uses Swedish data from 1997 to 2008 that identifies individual workers to show that shocks to firm productivity are passed on as variation in worker wages. The variation is high for high-skilled workers. Unskilled workers, perhaps due to union or minimum wage protection, experience smaller fluctuations.

Jan Mischke, Hans‐Helmut Kotz, Jacques Bughin, 26 July 2019

Since the 1980s, labour compensation relative to aggregate output has been on an inexorable downward trend across major developed economies. This column deploys a simple accounting technology to tease out the driving factors behind this, focusing on the US. The findings highlight the key role of under-appreciated factors, including supercycles and boom-bust effects and rising depreciation. The analysis suggests that while the effect of some factors may dampen or reverse, others will likely continue at an uncertain pace.

David Arnold, 19 July 2019

In the early days of his administration, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro announced plans to privatise several of the country's largest state-owned enterprises and airports. Fearing such a move would lower both wages and employment, labour unions organised in opposition to Bolsonaro’s plans. This column looks anew at evidence testing whether privatisation offers more than merely an immediate infusion of revenue, and finds that while increases in efficiency might contribute to Brazil’s overall economic growth, privatisation could also expose the country’s most vulnerable workers to significant risk of decreased wages.

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.

Philippe Aghion, 08 March 2019

Philippe Aghion, of the College de France and LSE, discusses work on merged datasets from the UK – one detailing occupation & wages, the other looking at R&D and investment.

Will Abel, Silvana Tenreyro, Gregory Thwaites, 23 January 2019

Concentrated labour markets, in which workers have few choices of potential employers, reduce the wages of workers when they are not covered by collective wage bargaining agreements. But these types of agreements have become much less common in the past 20 years. This column uses employee-level data to show that even though UK labour markets have not on average become much more concentrated, concentration – which varies a great deal across regions and industries – is having a bigger impact on wages than before.

Michèle Belot, Philipp Kircher, Paul Muller, 22 December 2018

Economic theory and the empirical evidence are mixed regarding the effect of wages on the volume of applications for job vacancies. This column presents the results of an experiment in which subjects saw artificial vacancies with randomly varying salaries. Results show that higher wages attract more interest on average, but that some job seekers prefer the lower wage jobs. Surveys suggest this is likely to be because they suspect less competition. 

Giuseppe Berlingieri, Sara Calligaris, Chiara Criscuolo, 19 September 2018

The evidence that bigger firms pay higher wages and have higher productivity is mainly based on manufacturing, which nowadays accounts for a small share of the economy. Drawing on a unique micro-aggregated dataset, this column reveals that while the size premia for both wages and productivity are significantly weaker in market services than in manufacturing, the link between wages and productivity is stronger – the most productive firms at the top are not necessarily the largest ones in terms of employment, but they do pay the best. This increases the likelihood of productivity and wage gains being shared with fewer workers, a further challenge to achieving inclusive growth in the new service economy.

Gilbert Cette, Jimmy Lopez, Jacques Mairesse, 13 September 2018

Although many product and labour market reforms have been implemented in OECD countries during the last two decades, further reforms are still frequently promoted to increase competitiveness, restore economic growth, and improve workers’ purchasing power. This column uses new cross-country and cross-industry measures to explore how deregulation affects these markets. The results confirm that product market deregulation may reduce rent creation, but that labour market deregulation may have two opposing effects on rent sharing – a negative impact on wages and a positive impact on hours worked.

Isabel Z. Martínez, Michael Siegenthaler, Emmanuel Saez, 22 August 2018

Macroeconomists tend to assume that people work more when their wages are temporarily higher, and that this is a key driver of employment fluctuations. This column examines how income tax holidays in Swiss cantons, which exempted earnings from income taxation for one or two years, affected the labour supply of Swiss workers.  People did not work more during the tax holiday, but the self-employed and high earners shifted earnings into the tax holiday years. The findings suggest that intertemporal labour supply responses are too small to be a key explanation why recessions lead to large falls in employment.

Francesco Caselli, Antonio Ciccone, 09 June 2018

Contributions to the development accounting literature suggest that human capital plays only a modest role in explaining the large income gaps across the world. This column reviews some of these studies to assess the impact of the relative efficiency and relative supply of high- versus low-skilled workers in labour markets. It concludes that differences in skill premia across countries are not due to differences in human capital embodied in skilled workers, but rather to differences in country-specific technological and institutional environments.

Maristella Botticini, 31 May 2018

There is a common misconception that the reason Jewish people are prominent in certain high-skilled and specialised professions is because of historical restrictions on the jobs they were allowed to hold. Maristella Botticini shows why this assumption is wrong, and that the real reason lies in parents' education investment decisions dating back 2,000 years. This video was recorded at the 2018 annual RES conference.

Jonathan Portes, 06 April 2018

Much public and policy concern has focused on the distributional impacts of immigration – in particular, potential negative impacts on employment and wages for low-skilled workers. This column summarises evidence and draws conclusions from the now considerable literature on the impact of migration to the UK on the economy and labour market, including the potential economic impacts of Brexit-induced reductions in migration.

Anna Stansbury, Lawrence H. Summers, 20 February 2018

Since 1973, there has been divergence between labour productivity and the typical worker’s pay in the US as productivity has continued to grow strongly and growth in average compensation has slowed substantially. This column explores the causes and implications of this trend. Productivity growth appears to have continued to push workers’ wages up, with other factors to blame for the divergence. The evidence casts doubt on the idea that rapid technological progress is the primary driver here, suggesting rather that institutional and structural factors are to blame.

Benjamin Villena-Roldán, Stefano Banfi, 17 February 2018

Researchers often pick a random or a directed search model based on convenience and theoretical implications, but distinguishing between the two is important as many labour market regulations may be welfare-improving under random search, but not under directed search. This column uses data from Chile to show that job-seekers respond to information posted by employers, suggesting that policy design should consider the prescriptions of directed search models.  However, the evidence also shows that relevant features of these markets are not well captured by existing models.

Gaetano Basso, Giovanni Peri, Ahmed Rahman, 12 January 2018

The US and Europe have both seen wage polarisation in the last three decades, in parallel with increasing technical automation. This column analyses the impact of immigration on this wage divergence via its effect on the labour supply side. It finds that immigration partially reverses natives’ polarisation of employment opportunities and wages by expanding aggregate demand and allowing natives to move to better paying occupations. Policies to reduce low-skilled migration with the aim of favouring native middle-class labour market opportunities may in fact do the opposite.

Pierre Cahuc, Stéphane Carcillo, Thomas Le Barbanchon, 09 January 2018

Despite their widespread use in the US and across Europe during the Global Crisis, the empirical evidence on the effectiveness of hiring credits is unclear, particularly in the context of recessions. This column uses the French hiring credit programme of 2008-09 to show that credits can be very effective at boosting job creation at low cost when they are unanticipated and temporary.

Ravi Kanbur, 08 January 2018

Technological innovation is broadly accepted as a driving force behind diverging wage trends in the last three decades. If this is set to continue, policymakers must choose how to respond to the ensuing income inequality. This column assesses two established policy response ideas – state-sponsored formal education, and tax and transfer mechanisms – and postulates a third, namely, that the pace and distributional effects of technological change should themselves be policy goals. A policy intervention that would make innovation more labour intensive would be the most powerful response of all.

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