Archived Series > IMF Staff Position Notes

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Mr. Luc Everaert and Céline Allard
To live up to its growth potential and secure its inclusive social model, the euro area must make better use of its available labor. In the aftermath of the crisis, boosting growth is essential to prevent unemployment from becoming a long-term problem and to facilitate the return to fiscal sustainability. Labor utilization in the euro area has been lagging considerably behind its best performing peers. While fewer hours worked may, to some extent, reflect a social choice, higher unemployment rates and lower participation rates, on the other hand, cannot easily be attributed to individual preferences. Here, policies and institutions matter more. And there is little excuse for relatively low labor productivity, a particular bane in southern Europe and an increasing challenge everywhere. Kick-starting growth requires a comprehensive approach to labor and service market reforms. Different circumstances call for different approaches across countries. Countries in southern Europe need to focus on regaining competitiveness, while some in the core should promote higher labor force participation or more open service sector markets. Improving access to the labor market should be high on the priority list everywhere—including through some harmonization of key features of the labor market, which will help deal with intra-euro area imbalances. Differences in labor taxation, unemployment benefit systems, and employment protection will need to be reduced. Improving regulation and reforming taxes and social benefits will be essential to make inroads. For the longer term, focus should be on innovation, education, and on continuing financial sector reforms.
Mai Dao and Mr. Prakash Loungani
Recessions leave scars on the labor market. Over 200 million people across the globe are estimated to be unemployed at present resulting from the Great Recession of 2007–09. We assess the human cost of increased unemployment by surveying what is known about the effects of past recessions. If past is prologue, the cost to the unemployed (and society) could be high. The focus of this paper is on advanced economies. To their credit, most countries mounted strong policy responses to minimize the human costs, and the policy actions were notable also for their consistency and coherence across countries.
Mr. Athanasios Vamvakidis, Mr. Francis Vitek, Ms. Mwanza Nkusu, Mr. Reginald Darius, Mr. Alun H. Thomas, and Edouard Vidon
The human cost of the recent global crisis is reflected in its impact on the labor market. Explaining why economies with similar downturns had very different employment trends can help design policies to reduce such costs and improve labor markets. This paper analyzes the recent employment experiences of six economies: Germany, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Spain, and Sweden. These economies represent a wide range of labor market institutions, policy responses, and outcomes to the crisis. The divergence of labor market outcomes and of the effectiveness of policies during the crisis can be explained by the interaction between the nature of the shocks and differences in the structure and institutions of each country’s economy. The worst job losses compared to the drop in output followed permanent shocks, particularly in dual labor markets and in the presence of wage rigidities. Policies to avoid job cuts were much more effective when they were well-targeted and responded to temporary shocks. In contrast, policies to facilitate labor movements were more appropriate following permanent shocks.
Ms. Marina Moretti, Mr. Aditya Narain, Ms. Laura E. Kodres, Ceyla Pazarbasioglu, José Vinãls, and Jonathan Fiechter
Three years after the onset of the global financial crisis, much has been done to reform the global financial system, but there is much left to accomplish. The regulatory reform agenda agreed by G-20 leaders in 2009 has elevated the discussions to the highest policy level and kept international attention focused on establishing a globally consistent set of rules. Comprehensive reform, once agreed and implemented in full, will have far-reaching implications for the global financial system and the performance of the world economy. In designing the reforms, it is imperative that policymakers keep their focus on the overarching objective of creating a financial system that provides a solid foundation for strong and sustainable economic growth. This paper argues that the current reforms are moving in the right direction, but many policy choices lie ahead—nationally and internationally?which are both urgent and challenging. Policies need to address not only the risks posed by individual banks but also, importantly, those posed by nonbanks and the system as a whole. The recent proposals of the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (BCBS) represent a substantial improvement in the quality and quantity of bank capital, but these apply only to a subset of the financial system.
Mr. Brad J. McDonald, Rob Gregory, and Ms. Katrin Elborgh-Woytek
The actions proposed here focus on trade integration, substantially increasing exports of the poorest countries and helping them to meet the Millennium Development Goals. As the foundation for these ambitions, we emphasize the role of a secure, open global trading environment—strengthened further by concluding the WTO Doha Round. From this base, the poorest countries also need better trade preferences from the advanced and major emerging market countries (EMs). Building the capacity to take advantage of trade opportunities will require support from the international community and policy reforms—such as to trade regimes—by the poorest countries themselves. The Fifteen Point Action Plan proposed here could increase annual exports of the least-developed countries (LDCs) by $10 billion or more, with additional benefits for other Low-Income Countries (LICs).