Friday, June 21, 2013

Cristina Cattaneo, Carlo Fiorio and Giovanni Peri have conducted an important study into the impact that immigrants have on the job prospects of native workers. This is, of course, a politically sensitive topic.

The findings of their analysis may provide some observers with a surprise: they find the 'native Europeans are more likely to upgrade their occupation to one associated with higher skills and better pay when a larger number of immigrants enter their labour market'. Their detailed empirical results suggest why this might not be the general perception. In their simplest model, it takes up to four years for the beneficial impact to become apparent. In more sophisticated models, which make allowance for issues arising from the direction of causality, the effect is immediate, but becomes more pronounced over time.

It is usually, though admittedly not always, the case that free markets serve us well. The labour market is no exception.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Ernst Fehr, Holger Herz and Tom Wilkening have produced a fascinating study, based on experimental work, of how bosses do (and do not) delegate. They find that bosses tend not to delegate enough - that both their own and their subordinates' interests would be served by more delegation. By retaining authority and failing to delegate, bosses support an under-supply of effort by their subordinates which is not in the organisation's interest - and hence not ultimately in the bosses' interests either. It seems that organisations stand to gain much if they can find incentive mechanisms that reward bosses in such a way that they delegate more appropriately. Such mechanisms would need to compensate bosses for their distaste for being overruled.

Fehr, E., Herz, H., & Wilkening, T. (2013). The Lure of Authority: Motivation and Incentive Effects of Power American Economic Review, 103 (4), 1325-1359 DOI: 10.1257/aer.103.4.1325

Evidence from the Institute of Fiscal Studies and the Trades Union Congress shows the extent to which wages have fallen over the course of the recession. The TUC reports that real wages have fallen by 7.5% overall, and by more than 10% in some parts of the country. This, according to the IFS, is a sharper fall than over any other five year period in recorded history.

The fall in wages has allowed unemployment to remain at much lower levels than might have been expected given the severity of the recession. The IFS attribute this flexibility of wages in part to a continued high level of labour supply - with many workers who would, in previous recessions, have quit the labour market as 'discouraged workers' opting instead to remain in the labour market this time - and in part to the effect of union legislation.

As the economy recovers, it would not be surprising to see wage pressure increase, as workers seek to recapture some of the losses they have made over the last few years. Unless such demands can be rigourously controlled, this could lead to an escalation of wages that feeds through into price inflation, and at the same time the braking force on unemployment could wither. While we now appear to be witnessing the beginnings of recovery, this could be frustrated by stagflation if discipline is not maintained.