Lars Calmfors, 28 September 2020

High employment is an important objective for all governments. This column makes the case for numerical employment targets, arguing that such targets can help balance fiscal objectives while also strengthening the incentives for reforms that raise structural employment. For the case of Sweden, the author recommends two targets: the actual employment rate for 20–68-year olds, and the actual annual hours worked per person in the population.

João Guerreiro, Sérgio Rebelo, Pedro Teles, 09 September 2020

Immigration policy has become a hot-button issue in both Europe and the US, with questions concerning optimal policy as well as the welfare state dominating discussions. This column revisits the idea of the immigration surplus, exploring a number of possible scenarios in terms of how policymakers should address the challenge. Correctly configuring fiscal policy so as to capture the benefits of both high- and low-skill immigrant (and native) workers is at the heart of optimal policy design and may help to address the swelling anti-immigrant sentiment that continues to exist in many countries today. 

Giordano Mion, Luca David Opromolla, Gianmarco Ottaviano, 28 August 2020

Understanding whether certain jobs are ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is a complex question that can be approached in numerous ways. Clarifying what factors make particular occupations within particular firms suitable for different people is at the heart of this discussion. This column presents evidence from a study untaken in Portugal, focusing on domestic versus internationally active firms. The results indicate that firms which are more international provide better career paths for managers, perhaps due to better overall managerial practices.

Teresa Fort, Justin Pierce, Peter Schott, 18 August 2020

Although it is well documented that US manufacturing employment has been falling since 1979, the causes of this trend are still unclear. This column argues that examining how and where the decline in US manufacturing employment occurs provides important insights in this regard. Using US Census Bureau’s Longitudinal Business Database, it highlights three important trends post 1979 which suggest substantial increases in labour productivity, and an evolution of US manufacturing in line with US comparative advantage. 

Egor Malkov, 22 July 2020

The lockdown measures have brought to light the importance of the nature of work. This column discusses how teleworkability and contact intensity of different jobs both shape the distribution of risks created by the pandemic. The existing distribution of working couples suggests that two-thirds of the US ‘dual-earner’ couples are exposed to greater intra-household contagion risk. About one-fourth are exposed to greater labour income risk. Patterns in skill requirements increase the likelihood of skill mismatch for the newly unemployed. These observations have direct policy implications whilst highlighting potential constraints on their effectiveness.

Toshihiro Okubo, 25 June 2020

The Japanese government’s policy response to the COVID-19 pandemic was to ask people to refrain from leaving their homes and to encourage teleworking. This column examines the effect of COVID-19 on the uptake of teleworking in a country that has the lowest use among developed countries. Overall, teleworking increased about 4 percentage points from January to March 2020, driven by industries and occupations related to information and located in the Tokyo metropolitan area. Teleworking is not suited to face-to-face services and manual labour, which saw substantial declines in worker incomes.

Sergio Torrejón Pérez, Marta Fana, Ignacio González-Vázquez, Enrique Fernández-Macías, 09 May 2020

The COVID-19 economic crisis is having a huge impact on employment in the EU, calling for swift policy action targeting the most affected sectors and countries. This column makes an assessment of the labour market impact of the confinement measures put in place by EU governments. It finds that these restrictions are likely to have a very asymmetric effect across EU labour markets, with the most negative employment impact concentrating in the most vulnerable countries and categories of workers.

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.

Petr Sedláček, Vincent Sterk, 25 April 2020

Startups are being hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown. Introducing a ‘startup calculator’ that allows anyone to compute the aggregate employment losses under various economic scenarios, this column explores the effects of a decline in startup activity on aggregate employment. Job losses may be large and may last well beyond the pandemic itself.

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.

Lee Branstetter, Brian Kovak, Jackie Mauro, Ana Venâncio, 01 December 2019

China’s rise as an export powerhouse has affected labour markets across the Western world, but the effects appear to differ dramatically across countries. This column evaluates the impact of rising Chinese exports on Portuguese employment, finding that labour market effects are shaped by indirect competition and labour market regulation.

Margherita Borella, Mariacristina De Nardi, Fang Yang, 23 November 2019

In the US, both taxes and social security benefits depend on one’s marital status and tend to discourage the labour supply of the secondary earner. Using information on US cohorts born in 1945 and 1955, this column shows that eliminating marriage-related provisions drastically increases the participation of married women over their entire life cycle and reduces the participation of married men after age 60. If the resulting government surplus were used to lower income taxation, there would be large welfare gains for the vast majority of the population.

Sotiris Blanas, Gino Gancia, Tim Lee, 10 October 2019

Since the early 1980s, technology has reduced the demand for low and medium-skill workers, the young, and women, especially in manufacturing industries. The column investigates which technologies have had the largest effect, and on which types of worker. It finds that robots and software raised the demand for high-skill workers, older workers, and men, especially in service industries. 

Hiroko Okudaira, Miho Takizawa, Kenta Yamanouchi, 24 September 2019

Studies often find an aggregated near-zero employment effect when increasing the minimum wage. But the effects might vary if local employers in different regions have different market power. The column examines increases in the minimum wage in Japan and finds a more pronounced negative employment effect in local labour markets where employers had less control over wages.

James Bessen, 12 September 2019

Do industries shed or create jobs when they adopt new labour-saving technologies? This column shows that manufacturing employment grew along with productivity for a century or more, and only later decreased. It argues that the changing nature of demand was behind this pattern, which led to market saturation. This implies that the main impact of automation in the near future may be a major reallocation of jobs, not necessarily massive job losses.

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.

Christoph Boehm, Aaron Flaaen, Nitya Pandalai-Nayar, 15 August 2019

What has caused the rapid decline in US manufacturing employment in recent decades? This column uses novel data to investigate the role of US multinationals and finds that they were a key driver behind the job losses. Insights from a theoretical framework imply that a reduction in the costs of foreign sourcing led firms to increase offshoring, and to shed labour.

Guay Lim, Robert Dixon, Jan van Ours, 28 January 2019

One version of Okun’s law specifies a relationship between the change in the unemployment rate and output growth. This column uses US labour market flows data to investigate this relationship between 1990 and 2017. It finds that the net flows between employment and unemployment are sensitive to changes in growth but respond differently to positive and negative changes. This implies that the US Okun relationship is stable but asymmetric, the effect of a change being larger in contractionary periods than in expansionary ones. 

Cevat Giray Aksoy, Ralph De Haas, 21 January 2019

Technological innovation can help to shift labour from sectors with low levels of productivity (such as agriculture) to higher-productivity sectors (manufacturing and, increasingly, services), with a profound impact on the nature of work and the types of skills that are in demand in the workplace. This column examines how this transformation is impacting jobs and employment across emerging Europe. The findings suggest that robotisation can explain only 13% of the total decline in the employment rate observed in these countries between 2010 and 2016.

Jacques Bughin, 23 December 2018

Advances in artificial intelligence have led to fears of job losses. This column uses a global survey covering more than 3,000 executives across 14 sectors and ten countries to examine the impact of AI on the demand side of the labour market. Ultimately, the effect on employment will depend on whether companies choose to use current forms of AI for innovation or pure automation, and whether they foresee a return from it.

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