Labour markets

Brian McCaig, Nina Pavcnik, 04 August 2015

Finding employment in the formal sector in developing countries is difficult. Countries with an abundance of informal firms suffer from low aggregate productivity. This column suggests that as countries develop, more workers transition from the informal to the formal sector. A ten-year period of rapid growth in Vietnam displayed a decrease in the employment in the informal sector in favour of the formal one. Most of it was due to changing cohorts in the workforce. In addition, this transition leads to gains in aggregate productivity in the formalised sectors.

Steffen Altmann, Armin Falk , Simon Jäger, Florian Zimmermann, 03 August 2015

A key question for policymakers is how long-term unemployment can be effectively reduced. This column presents new evidence from a large-scale field experiment in which job seekers were provided with information and encouragement. The results indicate that targeted information provision can be an effective policy tool, in particular in the combat against long-term unemployment.

Tito Boeri, Juan Francisco Jimeno , 27 July 2015

Structural reforms of labour markets are almost universally advocated by international institutions. This column argues that some of the labour market reforms implemented in Europe during the Crisis were misguided. One problem is that when reforms are imposed on national governments by international institutions, they can backfire. To address this, the authors propose a new way to promote employment policies in Europe, which is based on positive conditionality.

Elisabeth Bublitz, 22 July 2015

Workers who switch firms can lose firm-specific human capital. This column presents evidence of how moving to occupationally specialised firms can compensate workers for wage losses that are caused by ‘specific human capital’. When switches occur between firms that are very distant from each other in terms of their knowledge structure, occupationally specialised firms are prepared to pay a wage premium that can outweigh the costs of such long-distance switches.

Arash Nekoei, Andrea Weber, 10 July 2015

The generosity of unemployment insurance is often cited as a reason for long spells of joblessness. But this view neglects other important, and potentially positive, economic aspects of such programmes. Using Austrian data, this column presents evidence that unemployment insurance has a positive effect on the quality of jobs that recipients find. This can in turn have a positive effect on future tax revenues, and has implications for the debate on optimal insurance generosity.

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