Juan Dolado, Etienne Lalé, Hélène Turon, 20 January 2022

Zero-hours contracts are the subject of heated debate in the UK. While some point to the benefits of flexible contracts under fluctuating demand, others have raised concerns about potential exploitation. This column uses a structural model to examine their equilibrium and welfare effects. The findings suggest that zero-hours contracts should be restricted to job matches where workers opt for such a contract when offered a choice; access to zero-hours contracts should be prioritised for workers employed in small rather than large firms; and the way flexibility over hours is shared between workers and firms should be regulated.

Lucile Crumpton, Ethan Ilzetzki, 09 December 2021

Many commentators have understood the UK government’s proposed ‘high-wage, high-productivity’ model as suggesting that wage increases will themselves lead to innovation and higher productivity. In the November 2021 CfM survey, the panel of UK experts is nearly unanimous that that wage increases generally do not increase productivity in the long run; the consensus is that productivity drives wage increases. A minority thinks that government intervention in wages could lead to higher productivity, but even this minority argues that such policies should be complemented with investments in skills and other productivity-enhancing measures.

Philip Bunn, David E. Altig, Lena Anayi, Jose Maria Barrero, Nicholas Bloom, Steven Davis, Brent Meyer, Emil Mihaylov, Paul Mizen, Gregory Thwaites, 16 November 2021

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic triggered a massive spike in uncertainty. This column uses data from panel surveys of US and UK business executives to document how uncertainty over own-firm sales growth rates over the year ahead roughly doubled in reaction to the shock. Firm-level uncertainty receded after spring 2020 but remains much higher than pre-COVID levels. The nature of this uncertainty has shifted greatly since the pandemic struck, from an enormous widening in perceived downside risk to a sharp increase in upside risk. Economic uncertainty associated with the pandemic has morphed from a tale of the lower tail into a tale about the upper tail.

Lena Anayi, Nicholas Bloom, Philip Bunn, Paul Mizen, Gregory Thwaites, Chris Young, 28 October 2021

Covid-19 has had a sizeable impact on where people work and how they shop. This column uses data from the Decision Maker Panel business survey of 3,000 UK firms to assess the longer-run impact. The pandemic is expected to increase hours worked from home and sales made online. Firms will invest less in land and buildings but more in IT and software. The pandemic is also expected to reduce medium-term employment and sales, with some shift away from large urban areas towards more rural areas.

John Duca, John Muellbauer, Anthony Murphy, 13 September 2021

Research on house price cycles and their interactions with the economy has burgeoned since the Global Financial Crisis. This column draws five lessons from a recent comprehensive survey. It argues that conventional theories of house price dynamics are misleading. Shifts in credit conditions, together with differences in housing supply response across cities, regions and countries, account for much of the heterogeneity of house price outcomes. Finally, increased demand for space and unprecedented policy interventions together explain the very different house price experience in the pandemic compared with the Global Financial Crisis.

Matteo Benetton, Alessandro Gavazza, Paolo Surico, 09 September 2021

In the aftermath of the 2007–09 financial crisis, central banks have sought to stimulate the economy through new policies aimed at revamping credit and housing markets. This column examines the effects of the Bank of England’s Funding for Lending Scheme, which offers cheap medium-term loans to UK lenders. Mortgage lenders actively price-discriminate across borrowers using two-part tariffs which split the origination fee from the interest rate. This increased after the introduction of the scheme, implying a stronger transmission of monetary policy to credit markets and the real economy.

Jeegar Kakkad, Christina Palmou, David Britto, James Browne, 10 July 2021

The Covid pandemic has helped to loosen the binds that previously tied a job to a specific geography and created a new class of work in the UK. ‘Anywhere jobs’ are non-routine service sector jobs that can be done from anywhere in the world, potentially for cheaper. This column shows that one in five workers in the UK are in an anywhere job and, in contrast to the past when the pressure was on semi-skilled workers, it is relatively highly skilled workers in non-routine roles that are now vulnerable to the pressures of technology and globalisation.

Joan Costa-i-Font, 29 June 2021

Covid-19 vaccines exert large positive spillover effects beyond their protective effects for individuals, and thus their value far exceeds their costs. But these benefits are only realised if enough people receive both doses, so policymakers need to ensure appropriate incentives are in place to mitigate vaccine hesitancy. This column explores the potential of different incentives, arguing that creating a narrative of social esteem around being vaccinated may be the most effective way to ensure widespread uptake.

Nicholas Bloom, Paul Mizen, Shivani Taneja, 15 June 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic prompted a collective shift to working from home. This column argues that though the shift was surprisingly easy, returning to the office will be hard. New evidence from a survey of 2,500 employees in the UK shows a preference in favour of home working 2-3 days a week, with lingering concerns of overcrowded transport and offices. But allowing workers to choose when to work from home will leave empty offices Monday and Friday, and many tasks such as large group meetings are more effective in person than online. Hybrid working will be the solution.

Geraldine Blanchard-Rohner, Bruno Caprettini, Dominic Rohner, Hans-Joachim Voth, 01 June 2021

As COVID-19 vaccination programmes accelerate across the industrialised world, vaccination hesitancy is rapidly emerging as a key challenge. This column explores the relationship between pre-pandemic intensive care unit capacity and attitudes towards the COVID-19 vaccine in the UK. Despite widespread pre-pandemic scepticism about vaccines in general, willingness to become vaccinated against COVID-19 overall was strikingly high, even amongst those who rejected vaccines before the pandemic. The results point to a surprising synergy: where the emergency care systems of public healthcare providers were less strained during the early days of the COVID-19 epidemic, vaccination hesitancy is systematically less today. 

Catalina Amuedo-Dorantes, Agnese Romiti, 15 May 2021

Attracting international students is critical for public universities in the UK increasingly facing funding cuts and a diminishing domestic youth population. This column discusses how Brexit may have affected students’ willingness to study in the UK and the factors likely driving the students’ choices. Brexit significantly lowered applications from EU students, especially for science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects and for more selective institutions. International student enrolments also dropped, substantiating concerns regarding the ability to attract international talent.

Jan I. Haaland, Ian Wooton, 14 May 2021

The changes in the UK’s trading relationship with the EU are likely to have widespread effects, many of which are yet to be understood in full. This column introduces the issue of compliance with rules of origin requirements within free trade agreements. The authors argue that complying with these rules can present firms with additional production costs that would not have been present had the UK remained a part of the EU.

John O'Hagan, 04 May 2021

The presence of prize-winning young economists among faculty can be seen as a marker of a university’s status in the field of economics, particularly when awards are given on the basis of researchers being published in ‘top’ journals. This column examines where recent young economist prize winners studied for their doctorates and identifies a clear pattern of dominance, with the US – particularly Boston – the clear frontrunner.

Lauren Cohen, Umit Gurun, Danielle Li, 14 March 2021

Covid-19 has revealed the importance of quick, efficient, but safe medical innovation. The development of various vaccines, as well as a range of treatments, have been tech tools in the fight against the public health and economic crises. This column explores the impact of informal deadlines within the drugs market, arguing that such regulatory pressures can end up distorting product safety and marketability. The findings highlight the need for well-designed regulatory systems which allow medical innovators to move swiftly but safely during the next health shock.

Vincent Aussilloux, Adam Baïz, Matthieu Garrigue, Philippe Martin, Dimitris Mavridis, 19 February 2021

The Covid-19 crisis has presented policymakers across the euro area with an unprecedented challenge, not least of all because the shock has come to both the supply side and the demand side of the economy. This column presents a preliminary analysis of different nations’ responses so far, focusing on which measures have been deployed to address each side of the economic shock and where a ‘mixed approach’ has been taken to work in tandem. At a time where coordinated action may be needed, there is a concerning level of inconsistency in strategy. 

Gianni De Fraja, Jesse Matheson, James Rockey, Daniel Timms, 11 February 2021

The Covid-19 outbreak has led to an unprecedented rise in the number of jobs done from home. This column discusses the implications of this shift for locally consumed services such as restaurants, hairdressers, and gyms. Using precise data on the location of homes and offices of workers across the UK, it finds that there is large heterogeneity in the impact of working from home on these businesses. While city centres suffered a significant drop in demand for services, suburban neighbourhoods experienced an increase in demand. Policies aimed at helping the service industry should take this diverse impact into account.

Romesh Vaitilingam, 08 February 2021

The UK’s exit from the EU was finally completed on 1 January 2021. The IGM Forum at Chicago Booth invited its panels of leading European and US economists to express their views on the likely long-term effects of Brexit on both the UK economy and the aggregate economy of the remaining 27 EU members. As this column reports, a strong majority (86% of the panellists) agrees that the UK economy is likely to be at least several percentage points smaller in 2030 than it otherwise would have been. Views are more divided on the EU-27 economy: nearly a quarter of respondents agree that it will be at least several percentage points smaller in 2030 than it otherwise would have been; but more than a third are uncertain; while 41% do not expect the impact to be that strongly negative.

Mariacristina De Nardi, Giulio Fella, Gonzalo Paz-Pardo, 07 February 2021

The optimal size and structure of government benefit programmes crucially depend on households’ income risk and their ability to self-insure against it. This column demonstrates that in the UK, earning dynamics, such as income risk and shock persistence, differ substantially depending on age and position in the income distribution. Taking these dynamics into account when evaluating benefit policies is of crucial importance, as it dramatically changes the estimated welfare improvements. When the dynamics are incorporated, the 2016 reform of the UK’s benefit system is found to have been welfare-improving on average. 

Thorvaldur Gylfason, 06 February 2021

Trust is a crucial norm in any democratic system. And respect for the truth, as well as support for the institutions that uphold it, are fundamental for a functioning market economy. This column argues that recent controversies in the US, as well as the UK, have seen this norm begin to erode, and that this may have negative effects for democracies and economies worldwide. Citing evidence from Iceland, the author argues that unless reforms are implemented soon, advocates for democracy may see greater power slide into the hands of those who propagate mistruths for their own material gain.

Alejandro Graziano, Kyle Handley, Nuno Limão, 26 January 2021

Following the Brexit referendum five years ago, firms in the UK and also those in the EU and other countries operated in an environment with increased uncertainty over future trade policies. This column presents evidence of the detrimental effects of this uncertainty on trade in the UK before any changes to trade policy had taken place. Studying the period after the Conservative Party won the general election in May 2015 until just after the Brexit referendum in June 2016, it finds that an increasing probability of Brexit significantly reduced UK export values and product entry, while increasing product exit.

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