Transition and emerging economies

The transformation of economic systems from plan to market in transition and emerging economies has significant consequences not just for labor markets in those countries. The articles in this section offer summary lessons that can guide the development of institutions and labor reform policies in such countries, while also having wider relevance for other economies.

  • The labor market in Russia, 2000–2017

    Low unemployment and high employment, but also low, volatile pay and high inequality characterize the Russian labor market

    Vladimir Gimpelson, September 2019
    Being the largest economy in the Eurasian region, Russia's labor market affects economic performance and well-being in several former Soviet countries. Over the period 2000–2017, the Russian labor market survived several deep crises and underwent substantial structural changes. Major shocks were absorbed largely via wage adjustments, while aggregate employment and unemployment showed little sensitivity. Workers have paid the price for this rather stable employment situation in the form of volatile wages and a high risk of low pay.
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  • Public employment in the Middle East and North Africa

    Does a changing public sector workforce in the MENA region provide an opportunity for efficient restructuring?

    Public sector hiring has been an essential component of the social bargains that have maintained political stability in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). As these bargains eroded, public sector workforces contracted in relative terms owing to a partial freeze on hiring and the promise of lifetime job security for incumbent workers. This had profound effects on the age composition of the workforce. The upcoming retirement of many workers provides an opportunity to restructure public sector hiring to emphasize meritocratic recruitment processes and performance-based compensation systems.
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  • Impact of privatization on employment and earnings Updated

    Workers and policymakers may fear that privatization leads to job losses and wage cuts, but what’s the empirical evidence?

    Conventional wisdom and prevailing economic theory hold that the new owners of a privatized firm will cut jobs and wages. But this ignores the possibility that new owners will expand the firm’s scale, with potentially positive effects on employment, wages, and productivity. Evidence generally shows these forces to be offsetting, usually resulting in small employment and earnings effects and sometimes in large, positive effects on productivity and scale. Foreign ownership usually has positive effects, and the effects of domestic privatization tend to be larger in countries with a more competitive business environment.
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  • Redesigning pension systems Updated

    The institutional structure of pension systems should follow population developments

    Marek Góra, April 2019
    For decades, pension systems were based on the rising revenue generated by an expanding population (the so-called demographic dividend). As changes in fertility and longevity created new population structures, however, the dividend disappeared, but pension systems failed to adapt. They are kept solvent by increasing redistributions from the shrinking working-age population to retirees. A simple and transparent structure and individualization of pension system participation are the key preconditions for an intergenerationally just old-age security system.
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  • Does accession to the EU affect firms’ productivity?

    State capture and uneven infrastructure development due to foreign direct investment can outweigh productivity gains

    Firms in the new EU member states of Eastern Europe are more productive than those in other transition economies, but with a diminishing advantage. The least productive firms benefit the most from membership, although the situation is reversed in the case of foreign-owned firms. Foreign direct investment fails to promote knowledge and technology spillovers beyond the receiving firms. The dominance of multinational enterprises in the new EU member states enhances the threat of corporate state capture and asymmetric infrastructure development, whilst access to finance remains a constricting issue for all firms.
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  • Female labor force participation and development Updated

    Improving outcomes for women takes more than raising labor force participation—good jobs are important too

    Sher Verick, December 2018
    The relationship between female labor force participation and economic development is far more complex than often portrayed in both the academic literature and policy debates. Due to various economic and social factors, such as the pattern of growth, education attainment, and social norms, trends in female labor force participation do not conform consistently with the notion of a U-shaped relationship with GDP. Beyond participation rates, policymakers need to focus on improving women’s access to quality employment.
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  • The automotive industry in Central Europe: A success?

    The automotive industry has brought economic growth, but a developmental model based on foreign capital is reaching its limits

    Lucia Mýtna Kureková, September 2018
    Central Europe has experienced one of the most impressive growth and convergence stories of recent times. In particular, this has been achieved on the back of foreign-owned, capital-intensive manufacturing production in the automotive sector. With large domestic supplier networks and high skill intensity, the presence of complex industry yields many economic benefits. However, this developmental path is now reaching its limits with the exhaustion of the available skilled workforce, limited investments in upgrading and research, and persistent regional inequalities.
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  • Defining informality vs mitigating its negative effects

    More important than defining and measuring informality is focusing on reducing its detrimental consequences

    There are more informal workers than formal workers across the globe, and yet there remains confusion as to what makes workers or firms informal and how to measure the extent of it. Informal work and informal economic activities imply large efficiency and welfare losses, in terms of low productivity, low earnings, sub-standard working conditions, and lack of social insurance coverage. Rather than quibbling over definitions and measures of informality, it is crucial for policymakers to address these correlates of informality in order to mitigate the negative efficiency and welfare effects.
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  • Effects of regulating international trade on firms and workers

    The benefits of trade regulation increase when workers are mobile

    Raymond Robertson, June 2018
    Economists have shown that international trade increases economic growth, with trade liberalization and integration having characterized the last 50 years. While trade can increase national welfare, recent estimates from both developed and developing countries show that labor market adjustment costs matter. Regulating trade, defined as adding or removing tariffs and other trade barriers, is not the best way to help lower-income workers who suffer from trade-induced losses. Policies that reduce adjustment costs may increase aggregate welfare more than regulating trade flows does.
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  • The Chinese labor market, 2000–2016

    The world’s second largest economy has boomed, but a rapidly aging labor force presents substantial challenges

    Junsen ZhangJia Wu, May 2018
    China experienced significant economic progress over the past few decades with an annual average GDP growth of approximately 10%. Population expansion has certainly been a contributing factor, but that is now changing as China rapidly ages. Rural migrants are set to play a key role in compensating for future labor shortages, but inequality is a major issue. Evidence shows that rural migrants have low-paying and undesirable jobs in urban labor markets, which points to inefficient labor allocation and discrimination that may continue to impede rural–urban migration.
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