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Mrs. Jana Bricco, Florian Misch, and Alexandra Solovyeva
This paper examines the economic effects of policies to contain Covid-19, by extracting lessons from Sweden’s experience during the ‘Great Lockdown’. Sweden’s approach was less stringent and based more on social responsibility than legal obligations compared to European peers. First, we provide an account of Sweden’s strategy and the health outcomes. Second, drawing on a range of data sources and empirical findings, our analysis of the first Covid-19 wave indicates that a less stringent strategy can soften the economic impact initially. These benefits could be eroded subsequently, due to potentially higher infection rates and a prolonged pandemic, but in Sweden’s case, the evidence remains mixed in this regard, and it is premature to judge the outcome of Sweden’s containment strategy. In addition, the economic effects of the containment strategy also depend on social behavior, demographics and structural features of the economy, such as the degree of export orientation, reliance on global supply chains, and malleability to remote working.
Cristian Alonso, Mariya Brussevich, Ms. Era Dabla-Norris, Yuko Kinoshita, and Ms. Kalpana Kochhar
Unpaid work, such as caring for children, the elderly, and household chores represents a significant share of economic activity but is not counted as part of GDP. Women disproportionately shoulder the burden of unpaid work: on average, women do two more hours of unpaid work per day than men, with large differences across countries. While much unpaid care work is done entirely by choice, constraints imposed by cultural norms, labor market features or lack of public services, infrastructure, and family-friendly policies matter. This undermines female labor force participation and lowers economy-wide productivity. In this paper, we examine recent trends in unpaid work around the world using aggregate and individual-level data, explore potential drivers, and identify policies that can help reduce and redistribute unpaid work across genders. Conservative model-based estimates suggest that the gains from these policies could amount to up to 4 percent of GDP.
Lone Engbo Christiansen, Ms. Huidan Huidan Lin, Ms. Joana Pereira, Petia Topalova, and Rima Turk
This paper examines the link between gender diversity in senior corporate positions and financial performance of 2 million companies in Europe. We document a positive association between corporate return on assets and the share of women in senior positions and establish two potential channels through which gender diversity may affect firm performance. The positive correlation is more pronounced in, first, sectors where women form a larger share of the labor force (such as the services sector) and, second, where complementarities in skills and critical thinking are in high demand (such as high-tech and knowledge-intensive sectors).
Lone Engbo Christiansen, Ms. Huidan Huidan Lin, Ms. Joana Pereira, Petia Topalova, and Rima Turk
With an aging population and declining productivity growth, Europe faces serious challenges to raising its output growth. Adding to these challenges are the various gender gaps in the labor market. Despite significant progress in recent decades, there are still fewer women than men participating in Europe’s labor market, and women are more likely to work part time. Furthermore, a smaller share of women reaches the top rungs of the corporate ladder. Could greater gender equality in the labor market help mitigate the slowdown in Europe’s growth potential? Against this backdrop, this paper investigates the drivers of female labor force participation in Europe as well as what effects greater gender diversity in senior corporate positions might have for Europe’s economic performance. Reexamining the factors driving women’s labor force participation is particularly important because in many European countries the process of closing the gender gap has stalled despite greater gender equality in human capital investment, declining birth rates, changing social norms, and equal legal access to employment opportunities. Investigating whether firm performance could be improved if women held a greater share of senior positions is also essential given that the empirical evidence from past research into this question has been inconclusive.
Giang Ho and Ms. Kazuko Shirono
The large influx of migrants to Nordic countries in recent years is challenging the adoptability of Nordic labor market institutions while also adding to potential growth. This paper examines the trends, economic drivers, and labor market implications of migration to Nordic countries with a particular focus on economic migration as distinct from the recent large flows of asylum seekers. Our analysis finds that migration inflows to the Nordics are influenced by both cyclical and structural factors. Although migration helpfully dampens overheating pressures during periods of strong demand, and over the longer term will cushion the decline in labor supply from population aging, in the near-term unemployment can rise, especially among the young and lower-skilled. The analysis highlights the need to adapt Nordic labor market institutions in a manner that better facilitates the integration of migrants into employment. In particular, greater wage flexibility at the firm level and continued strong active labor market measures will help improve labor market outcomes among immigrants.
Yuko Kinoshita and Fang Guo
Both Japan and Korea are trying to boost female labor force participation (FLFP) as they face the challenges of a rapidly aging population. Though FLFP has generally been on a rising trend, the female labor force in both countries is skewed towards non-regular employment despite women’s high education levels. This paper empirically examines what helps Japan and Korea to increase FLFP by type (i.e., regular vs. non-regular employment), using the SVAR model. In so doing, we compare these two Asian countries with two Nordic countries Norway and Finland. The main findings are: (i) child cash allowances tend to reduce the proportion of regular female employment in Japan and Korea, (ii) the persistent gender wage gap encourages more non-regular employment, (iii) a greater proportion of regular female employment is associated with higher fertility, and (iv) there is a need for more public spending on childcare for age 6-11 in Japan and Korea to help women continue to work.