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.

Clemens Fuest, Andreas Peichl, Sebastian Siegloch, 10 October 2017

Economists tend to think that the corporate tax burden is shared between labour and capital, but even among researchers in the field there is substantial disagreement over how much of the burden is shifted to workers. This column exploits variations in local business tax rates in Germany to identify the corporate tax incidence on wages. On average, more than half of the corporate tax burden is passed onto workers, implying a reduced overall progressivity of the German tax system.

Giuseppe Berlingieri, Patrick Blanchenay, Chiara Criscuolo, 15 May 2017

Some firms pay well while others don’t; and some are highly productive while many aren’t. This column presents new firm-level data on the increasing dispersion of wages and productivity in both the manufacturing and services sectors in 16 OECD countries. Wage inequalities are growing between firms, even those operating in the same sector – and they are linked to growing differences between high and low productivity firms. Both globalisation and technological progress (notably information and communications technologies) influence these outcomes – as do policies and institutions such as minimum wages, employment protection legislation, unions, and processes of wage-setting.

Julián Messina, Oskar Nordström Skans, Mikael Carlsson, 23 October 2016

While standard microeconomic theory suggests that firms have no power over setting wages when markets are perfectly competitive, this view obviously clashes with the perceptions of the casual observer. This column uses data from Sweden to investigate the extent to which differences in firms’ pay are related to differences in physical productivity. It finds that firms that benefit from positive productivity shocks increase the wages of incumbent workers, and in particular firms among which there is substantial labour mobility. The evolution of productivity among such firms appears to be a crucial determinant of workers’ wages.

Sergei Guriev, Biagio Speciale, Michele Tuccio, 13 September 2016

A common explanation for the growth in unemployment in southern Europe after the Great Recession is lack of flexibility in over-regulated labour markets. This column examines wage adjustment in regulated and unregulated labour markets in Italy during the recent crisis. Using data on immigrant workers, it shows that before the crisis wages in the formal and informal sectors moved in parallel. During the crisis, however, formal wages did not adjust downwards, while informal labour wages did. Greater flexibility in wages in the formal market could slow the decline in employment.

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Events

  • 17 - 18 August 2019 / Peking University, Beijing / Chinese University of Hong Kong – Tsinghua University Joint Research Center for Chinese Economy, the Institute for Emerging Market Studies at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, the Guanghua School of Management at Peking University, the Stanford Center on Global Poverty and Development at Stanford University, the School of Economics and Management at Tsinghua University, BREAD, NBER and CEPR
  • 19 - 20 August 2019 / Vienna, Palais Coburg / WU Research Institute for Capital Markets (ISK)
  • 29 - 30 August 2019 / Galatina, Italy /
  • 4 - 5 September 2019 / Roma Eventi, Congress Center, Pontificia Università Gregoriana Piazza della Pilotta, 4, Rome, Italy / European Center of Sustainable Development , CIT University
  • 9 - 14 September 2019 / Guildford, Surrey, UK / The University of Surrey

CEPR Policy Research