To celebrate the work of 2015 IZA Prize laureate Jan Svejnar, IZA organized a joint conference with CERGE-EI on “Labor Economics and its Public Policy Impact on Economic Growth” in Prague on November 21, which attracted a distinguished audience of over 100 academics and policymakers.
During the first part, an academic session chaired by Corrado Giulietti (IZA), Nobel laureate Christopher Sims (Princeton University) presented some puzzling figures about the cyclicality of labor productivity, showing that output per worker in the wake of the recent economic crisis increased in the U.S. and Spain, but decreased in many other developed countries. He suggested that the cyclicality of labor productivity might become a central topic for macroeconomists in the years to come.
Henry S. Farber (Princeton University and IZA) demonstrated that taxi drivers in New York City respond positively to unanticipated increases in earnings opportunities, which goes against previous research showing that taxi drivers work less when the wage is unexpectedly higher.
Stepan Jurajda (CERGE-EI and IZA) documented a large wage database of McDonald’s workers around the world. Comprising data for the period 2000-2015, this database allows the comparison of how real wages of workers who supply comparable skill inputs have evolved across countries over time.
Alan B. Krueger (Princeton University and IZA) presented recent figures on the “uberization” of the U.S. labor market, showing that the size of the “offline” gig economy is much larger than the online activities of Uber et al. Analyzing the working arrangements of individuals involved in these activities is fundamental for the understanding of potential downward pressures on labor standards and for the design of proposals to extend the social compact between workers and companies in the sharing economy.
The academic session concluded with Gerard Roland (UC Berkeley) giving a condensed review about 25 years of research in the economics of transition. His presentation showed how the topics in the area evolved over the years, highlighting the important contributions made by Jan Svejnar and other academic experts in the area of transition economics.
The policy panel, chaired by Jan Svejnar, was dedicated to experiences and practices in evidence-based policy advice. Representing the “demand” side, Czech Labor Minister Michaela Marksová highlighted the challenges of labor market policy making and politicians’ need for scientific advice. IZA Director Klaus F. Zimmermann presented the IZA World of Labor platform as an effective instrument for the wider dissemination of scientifically founded policy advice.
Stefano Scarpetta shared insights from the OECD while Daniel Münich introduced IDEA, an academic and policy think tank recently established within CERGE-EI, as a platform to bring research results closer to policy makers. IZA Program Director Hartmut Lehmann (University of Bologna) highlighted the importance of strengthening data collection initiatives based on his experience of leading transition research within IZA.
A more detailed report will appear in the next issue of IZA Compact.