Christine Blandhol, Magne Mogstad, J Peter Nilsson, Ola L. Vestad, 13 February 2021

Worker representation on corporate boards has gained popularity as a way to promote the workers’ interests. This column explores whether worker wages are linked to worker representation on corporate boards, using ten years of data from Norway. Workers are paid more and face less earnings risk if they work in firms with worker representation on the board, but these benefits can be entirely explained by firm size and the share of unionised workers. While workers may benefit from being employed in firms with worker representation, they would not benefit from legislation mandating worker representation on corporate boards.

Daisuke Adachi, Daiji Kawaguchi, Yukiko Saito, 09 February 2021

Previous studies have reported that the adoption of robotic technologies in industry reduces both employment and wages. This column examines the experience of Japan, which is unique due to early industry penetration and the fact that almost all the robots were domestically produced. Applying a different method from those in previous studies, it shows that the penetration of industrial robots has positive impacts on both employment and wages. This implies the potential for harmonisation of human work with future labour-replacement technology, such as artificial intelligence.

Mariacristina De Nardi, Giulio Fella, Marike Knoef, Gonzalo Paz-Pardo, Raun van Ooijen, 06 November 2020

Understanding the source of fluctuations in earnings, and how workers insure themselves against those fluctuations, is key to evaluating labour laws. This column uses administrative data from the Netherlands to compare the role played by households to the tax and transfer system in mitigating shocks to individual earnings. It then compares those findings to data from the US – a country with a substantially smaller welfare state – and finds that hours, not wages, account for most of the variability in earnings for workers in the bottom two deciles of the earnings distribution.

Johanna Rickne, Olle Folke, 21 May 2020

The #MeToo movement put a spotlight on a severe and highly prevalent workplace problem: sexual harassment. Using data from Sweden, this column argues that economists should treat sexual harassment as gender discrimination in work conditions. Both men and women are subject to this discrimination when they are part of gender minorities in occupations or workplaces.

Morten Bennedsen, Elena Simintzi, Margarita Tsoutsoura, Daniel Wolfenzon, 07 May 2020

Many countries are introducing mandatory wage transparency to address the seemingly intractable gender wage gap, but evidence of its effects on gender pay disparities and firm outcomes has, to date, been limited. To examine the benefits and costs of such policies, this column analyses the wages of firms prior to and following the introduction of Denmark’s 2006 Act on Gender Specific Pay Statistics. Mandatory transparency legislation reduced gender pay disparity, primarily by slowing down the growth of men's wages.

Jörg Heining, Simon Jäger, Benjamin Schoefer, 08 April 2020

Many countries, especially in Europe, are characterised by shared governance institutions that grant workers formal authority in firms’ decision-making. This column uses a natural experiment: a 1994 reform in Germany that abolished worker-elected directors in certain new firms and permanently preserved them in others, to provide empirical evidence on the effects of shared governance. It finds that shared governance can lead to an increase in capital formation and discusses the mechanisms which may lead to this result.

Anne Case, 17 February 2020

Anne Case traces the rise in 'deaths of despair' in the US back to stagnating wages and the contracting out by firms of low-skilled jobs to avoid high health insurance costs

Christiane Nickel, Elena Bobeica, Gerrit Koester, Eliza Lis, Mario Porqueddu, Cecilia Sarchi, 25 November 2019

Wage growth in the euro area over 2013 to 2017 was subdued despite notable improvements in the labour market, leading some to claim a breakdown of the output–inflation relationship. This column presents comparative analyses of wage developments in the euro area, showing that the Phillips curve is alive and well and can be used to explain much of the weakness in wage growth during 2013-2017. Other factors also found to have played a role include compositional effects, the possible non-linear reaction of wage growth to cyclical improvements, and structural and institutional factors. 

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.


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