Xinshen Diao, Mia Ellis, Margaret McMillan, Dani Rodrik, 01 March 2021

Before Covid-19 struck, many economies in sub-Saharan Africa were expanding rapidly – faster than at any time since independence. Yet African growth accelerations were anomalous when viewed from the perspective of comparative development patterns; structural changes were accompanied by declining within-sector productivity growth in modern sectors. This column explores this anomaly in the context of African manufacturing using newly created firm-level panel data for Tanzania and Ethiopia. In both countries, there is a sharp dichotomy between larger firms that exhibit superior productivity performance but do not expand employment much, and small firms that absorb employment but do not experience any productivity growth. These patterns appear to be related to technological advances in global manufacturing which are making it more capital intensive.

Liudmila Alekseeva, José Azar, Mireia Gine, Sampsa Samila, Bledi Taska, 03 May 2020

Artificial intelligence will transform job tasks and occupations. This column uses data from US online job postings during 2010–2019 to show how absolute and relative demand for AI-related skills has grown across all industry sectors and occupation groups. Jobs requiring AI skills command, on average, an 11% wage premium compared to similar jobs that do not require AI knowledge. However, AI is at least as much a managerial challenge as it is a technological challenge. Real productivity gains will come only when there are managers who can use AI to create and capture value.

Enghin Atalay, Phai Phongthiengtham, Sebastian Sotelo, Daniel Tannenbaum, 23 January 2020

Since the late 20th century, middle-wage occupations have shrunk as a share of total employment, while occupations requiring social and analytic tasks have grown. However, little is known about the degree to which individual occupations or job titles have changed over time and the extent to which these changes have been driven by new technologies. Analysing approximately 8.7 million job ads published in newspapers during 1940–2000, this column finds that non-routine analytic and interactive tasks in jobs increased, while manual tasks declined. The majority of changes have occurred within rather than between occupations. New technologies are linked to increased intensity of non-routine analytic job tasks.

Daniel Oesch, Giorgio Piccitto, 04 January 2020

The consensus view in economics is that labour markets are polarising as jobs are created in high-skilled and low-skilled occupations but disappear in mid-skilled ones. This column shows empirical evidence against the polarisation theory in Western Europe. Between 1992 and 2015, job growth in Germany, Spain, Sweden, and the UK was strongest in top-end occupations and, except in the UK, weakest in low-end occupations. 

Steven Davis, John Haltiwanger, Kyle Handley, Ben Lipsius, Josh Lerner, Javier Miranda, 22 October 2019

Private equity buyouts arouse intense interest among investors and business owners as well as policymakers and politicians, but the difficulty of assembling the data needed for a systematic evaluation makes assessing their effects hard. This column uses data on thousands of buyouts in the US to examine the effects on employment, job reallocation, productivity, and worker compensation.  The findings suggest that the effects differ greatly by type of buyout, with the credit conditions at the time of buyout, and with the post-buyout evolution of credit conditions and the macroeconomy, casting doubt on the efficacy of ‘one-size-fits-all’ policy prescriptions for private equity.

Sascha O. Becker, Ana Fernandes, Doris Weichselbaumer, 05 June 2019

The arrival of a child affects women and men differently in terms of labour market outcomes, but it is difficult to separate out the causal impact of discrimination from other factors. This column uses empirical evidence from Germany, Switzerland, and Austria to show that women are most affected in part-time job applications if they signal a ‘risk’ of having young children soon.

David Autor, 05 April 2019

Do trade and technology harm jobs? David Autor of MIT argues that we shouldn't mix the two as their effects are very different. Autor was giving the Economic Journal keynote lecture at the RES conference 2014.

David Autor, 19 March 2019

Labour markets in US cities today are vastly more educated and skill-intensive than they were 50 years ago, but urban non-college workers now perform much less skilled work than they did. This column shows that automation and international trade have eliminated many of the mid-skilled non-college jobs that were disproportionately based in cities. This has contributed to a secular fall in real non-college wages.

Robert Shiller, 12 March 2019

Jobs help to define a person's relationship to society and to self; with the threat that AI poses to jobs comes a fear of losing one's identity. Nobel Laureate Robert Shiller of Yale University argues that economists should focus more on the 'meaning of life' and look beyond the figures on the page.

Simeon Djankov, Federica Saliola, 23 November 2018

Over the last century, technology has created more jobs than it has displaced. This column presents an overview of ways in which technology and innovation are changing the nature of work, leading to demand for advanced cognitive skills and greater adaptability among workers. The rise of platform marketplaces is also changing the way people work and the terms on which they work, which requires a rethinking of social protection systems.

Marco Buti, Björn Döhring, 08 November 2018

GDP growth has become more uneven globally, and has shifted into a lower gear in Europe. So it is unsurprising that commentators have started warning about a more severe downturn. The Commission's autumn 2018 European Economic Forecast is no exception in highlighting an unusual amount of uncertainty clouding the economic outlook. The predominance of downside risks implies that macroeconomic outcomes could ex post be worse than our central scenario. This column discusses, on the basis of concrete examples, different types of uncertainty surrounding the still benign forecast baseline. Prudence requires economic policy to prepare for the eventuality of worse outturns. 

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.

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.

Pierre Cahuc, Sandra Nevoux, 14 September 2017

Short-time work reduces job destruction by subsidising firms to reduce hours of work and provide earnings support to workers facing lower hours. Since 2008, firms in France that stand to benefit have lobbied successfully to expand the programme massively. This column argues that the expansion primarily benefited large firms using short-time work recurrently to deal with seasonal fluctuations. Making employers contribute to the cost of short-time work would make the policy more efficient.

Rachel Baker, Eric Bettinger, Brian A. Jacob, Ioana Marinescu, 11 May 2017

As low- and middle-skill jobs disappear from the labour market, a major policy objective is to help students gear their education towards higher-skilled, higher-paying jobs. This column examines how aware US college students are of differing salaries and job prospects, and how they influence the choice of degree major. Earning potential and job prospects appear less important than enjoyment of and proficiency in a subject, possibly reflecting that students feel underinformed about the salaries and job status of alumni from their college.

Adriana Kugler, Maurice Kugler, Juan Saavedra, Luis Herrera, 28 January 2016

Vocational training programmes offer a second chance to those who drop out of the formal education system. Most studies of the success of such programmes, however, typically only analyse outcomes directly after participation. This column examines the medium- and long-term outcomes of a vocational training programme in Colombia. Results suggest that vocational training and formal education are complementary investments and that there are educational spillover effects for family members, in particular among applicants with high baseline educational attainment.

Régis Barnichon, 12 November 2015

Many commentators have noted that the US has ridden out its post-crisis malaise rather skilfully, not least when it comes to reducing unemployment. This column argues that the US unemployment rate - despite being impressive, all things considered - still has substantial room to fall because desire to work among the non-employed is close to a record low.

John Haltiwanger, Henry Hyatt, Erika McEntarfer, 11 September 2015

People tend to build their careers through job-hopping. This column adds to our growing understanding of how these job-to-job flows translate into enhanced productivity and earnings gains. Using new data, an analysis of the nature and extent of these flows by firm size and firm wages over the cycle shows that, during labour market downturns, workers tend to stay for longer on lower-paying, less productive rungs of the job ladder.

Michael Boehm, 08 February 2014

Employment in traditional middle-class jobs has fallen sharply over the last few decades. At the same time, middle-class wages have been stagnant. This column reviews recent research on job polarisation and presents a new study that explicitly links job polarisation with the changes in workers' wages. Job polarisation has a substantial negative effect on middle-skill workers.

Leonardo Iacovone, Vijaya Ramachandran, 07 February 2014

There is an urgent need for job creation in Africa yet something seems to be stunting firm growth. This column shows that African firms are about 20% smaller than their counterparts in other locations. It suggests small firms put the brake on growth as the burden of dealing with government and labour costs may increase with size, or perhaps as they start facing trust issues between managers and workers.


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