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Can Sever
The unequal treatment of women in the law is one of the most visible forms of gender inequality. Prevalent legal constraints on the basis of gender prevent women, and thereby economies, from reaching their true potential. In this regard, this paper (i) documents the evolution of gender discriminatory laws around the globe, and (ii) sheds light on the role of legal gender equality in income convergence across countries. It shows that despite the remarkable progress toward gender equality in the law over the last five decades, the legal environment across the world is still far from providing a level playing field for women. Moreover, cross-country gaps in gender discriminatory laws have persisted and even widened over the years, meaning that some countries have lagged behind the progress in repealing the laws that act as a barrier to women’s economic inclusion. Based on a global sample since the 1970s, this paper finds that greater gender equality in the law facilitates cross-country income convergence over time. The results call for action and provide a reason to be optimistic going forward. They imply that legal reforms supportive of gender equality, which could indeed be actionable in the shorter term, help poorer countries catch up with the living standards in the advanced economies. These offer a window of opportunity in the post-Covid-19 period, given the adverse effects of the pandemic on economic growth and gender gaps.
Davide Furceri and Mr. Jonathan David Ostry
While the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting all countries, output losses vary considerably across countries. We provide a first analysis of robust determinants of observed initial output losses using model-averaging techniques—Weighted Average Least Squares and Bayesian Model Averaging. The results suggest that countries that experienced larger output losses are those with lower GDP per capita, more stringent containment measures, higher deaths per capita, higher tourism dependence, more liberalized financial markets, higher pre-crisis growth, lower fiscal stimulus, higher ethnic and religious fractionalization and more democratic regimes. With respect to the first factor, lower resilience of poorer countries reflects the higher economic costs of containment measures and deaths in such countries and less effective fiscal and monetary policy stimulus.
Mr. Antonio David, Samuel Pienknagura, and Mr. Jorge Roldos
Labor markets in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) are characterized by high levels of informality and relatively rigid regulation. This paper shows that these two features are related and together make the speed of adjustment of employment to shocks slower, especially when regulations are tightly enforced. Evidence suggests that strict labor market regulations also have an adverse effect on medium-term growth. While both regulations on prices (minimum wages) and quantities (employment protection) decrease the speed of adjustment to shocks, they appear to be binding in different phases of the cycle—the former affects mostly the (net) job creation margin and the latter the (net) job destruction margin. The results also highlight possible interactions between labor market regulations and the effectiveness of macro-stabilization tools—including exchange rate depreciation.
Mr. Benedicte Baduel, Carolin Geginat, and Ms. Gaelle Pierre
This paper examines the extent to which firms in selected MENA countries reported being constrained by the business environment around the time of the Arab Spring and the extent to which these constraints affected their employment performance. The results suggest that small firms in MENA faced more structural constraints than similar firms in other regions. We also find that MENA firms’ weaker job creation can be explained in great part by the macroeconomic environment and structural constraints. Low GDP growth, falling external competitiveness, corruption, lack of access to finance and poor access to electricity are found to explain a significant part of the lack of employment growth in MENA firms compared to their peers.
Mr. Martin Schindler and Ms. Mariya Aleksynska
This paper documents a new database of labor market regulations during 1980-2005 in 91 countries, including low-, middle- and high-income countries, and contains information on unemployment insurance systems, minimum wage regulations, and employment protection legislation. In this paper, we provide details regarding the data, methodology and sources. Descriptive statistics indicate that there exists substantial heterogeneity in labor market institutions across regions and income groupings, and that much of the sample variation is driven by institutional changes over time in low- and middle-income countries. All indicators are at an annual frequency, allowing for the dating of major changes in regulation, and are based on data from a variety of sources, including the ILO, OECD and national agencies.
Mr. Helge Berger and Mr. Stephan Danninger
This study explores the effects of labor and product market deregulation on employment growth. Our empirical results, based on an OECD country panel from 1990-2004, suggest that lower levels of product and labor market regulation foster employment growth, including through sizable interaction effects. Based on these findings, the paper develops a theoretical framework for evaluating deregulation strategies in the presence of reform costs. Optimal deregulation takes various forms depending on the deregulation costs, the strength of reform interactions, and the perspective of the policymaker. Unless deregulation costs are very asymmetric across markets, optimal deregulation requires some form of coordination.