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Jobs recovery to remain weak in 2015, says OECD

September 4, 2014 Comments off

Jobs recovery to remain weak in 2015, says OECD
Source: OECD

Unemployment will remain well above its pre-crisis levels next year in most OECD countries, despite modest declines over the rest of 2014 and in 2015, according to a new OECD report.

The Employment Outlook 2014 says that average jobless rates will decrease slightly over the next 18 months in the OECD area, from 7.4% in mid-2014 to 7.1% at the end of 2015. Almost 45 million people are out of work in OECD countries, 12.1 million more than just before the crisis. Globally, an estimated 202 million people are unemployed, with many more in low-paid and precarious jobs.

The Outlook also analyses the impact of the crisis on wages. It finds that real wage growth has come to a virtual standstill since 2009 and wages actually fell in a number of countries by between 2% and 5% a year on average, including in Greece, Portugal, Ireland and Spain.

This slowdown has been fairly evenly spread across the earnings distribution. However, slower real wage growth, and cuts in wages in some cases, result in real hardship for low-paid workers, the report warns.

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An Exploration of the Determinants of the Subjective Well-being of Americans During the Great Recession

September 3, 2014 Comments off

An Exploration of the Determinants of the Subjective Well-being of Americans During the Great Recession
Source: OECD

This paper uses data from the American Life Panel to understand the determinants of well-being in the United States during the Great Recession. It investigates how various dimensions of subjective wellbeing reflected in the OECD Better Life Framework impact subjective well-being. The results show that income is an important determinant of subjective well-being. The unemployed and the disabled are significantly less satisfied with their lives than the working population, while the retired and the homemakers are more satisfied. The paper expands the existing evidence by showing that homeowners, registered voters and those with access to health insurance have higher levels of subjective well-being. Time spent walking or exercising is positively correlated with happiness, while working more than 50 hours per week or spending time on health-related activities is negatively correlated with subjective well-being, and higher levels of anxiety. This Working Paper relates to the 2014 OECD Economic Survey of United States (www.oecd.org/eco/surveys/economic-survey-united-states.htm)

Improving Well-Being in the United States

August 22, 2014 Comments off

Improving Well-Being in the United States
Source: OECD

Life is quite good in the United States compared to other OECD countries, thanks to strong economic growth and technological progress having lifted average income to high levels. Nonetheless, there is evidence that the benefits from growth have not been sufficiently broad based. Self-reported happiness increases with income, an issue particularly resonant in a country with among the highest levels of income inequality in the OECD and a pattern of inequality that appears to be moving toward even more concentration at the very top at the expense of the middle class and the poor. Working hours that remain among the longest in the OECD are also creating challenges for work-life balances, child education, personal care and leisure. These pressures are contributing to higher job strain and work-related stress with unhealthy consequences, including for mental health, and a detrimental impact on employability and medical costs. While these trends cannot be easily reversed, a number of policy options are being usefully rolled out and other initiatives are being considered: federal-level policies improving access to health care and early-childhood education, state-level initiatives favouring workplace flexibility, firm-level investments in job quality and greater attention to the health consequences of job-stress. If successfully adopted, they would go a long way toward improving the well-being of American working families.

Workplace Stress in the United States: Issues and Policies

August 11, 2014 Comments off

Workplace Stress in the United States: Issues and Policies
Source: OECD

Despite relative affluence, workplace stress is a prominent feature of the US labour market. To the extent that job stress causes poor health outcomes – either directly through increased blood pressure, fatigue, muscle pain, etc. or indirectly through increased rates of cigarette smoking – policy to lessen job stress may be appropriate. Focusing predominantly on the United States, this report reviews the literature on a variety of economic concerns related to job stress and health. Areas in which economists may provide valuable insights regarding job stress include empirical selection concerns in identifying the effect of stress on health; measurement error with respect to stress; the existence and magnitude of compensating differentials for stress; and the unique “job lock” effect in the United States created by a system of employer-provided health insurance. This report concludes with a brief discussion of US policies related to job stress.

Making the Best of New Energy Resources in the United States

August 7, 2014 Comments off

Making the Best of New Energy Resources in the United States
Source: OECD

Since around 2007, the country has been enjoying an “energy renaissance” thanks to its abundant stocks of shale oil and gas. The resurgence in oil and gas production is beginning to create discernible economic impacts and has changed the landscape for natural gas prices in the United States, boosting competitiveness. In order to reap the benefits fully, significant investment is needed. Federal and state governments capture some of the resource rents, but there are potential opportunities to increase taxation and use the revenues to support future well-being. Taxing natural resource rents with profit taxes can be less distortionary than other forms of taxation, though only one state uses this form of tax. Production of shale resources, like other forms of resource extraction, poses a number of challenges for the environment. Respecting demands on water resources requires adequate water rights are in place while state and federal regulators need to monitor the environmental impact of hydraulic fracturing closely and strengthen regulations as needed. Natural gas is a potential “bridge fuel” towards a lower carbon economy, helping to reduce emissions by leading to a substitution away from coal. Flanking measures are desirable to counter natural gas hindering renewables and low prices stymieing innovation.

Overcoming Skills Shortages in Canada

August 4, 2014 Comments off

Overcoming Skills Shortages in Canada
Source: OECD

Skills shortages have developed in certain fields and regions in recent years. Earnings premiums for people in some professions, notably health, engineering and skilled trades have increased. And vacancy rates have risen for skilled trades, with the increase being particularly large in Alberta and Saskatchewan. While reforms have been implemented to strengthen adjustment so as to overcome these shortages, there is still room to go further by improving labour market information, increasing responsiveness of the education and training system to labour market demand, making the immigration system more reactive to current labour market conditions and reducing regulatory barriers to inter-provincial labour mobility. This Working Paper relates to the 2014 OECD Economic Review of Canada (http://www.oecd.org/eco/surveys/economic-survey-canada.htm).

Health, Work and Working Conditions: A Review of the European Economic Literature

July 30, 2014 Comments off

Health, Work and Working Conditions: A Review of the European Economic Literature
Source: OECD

Economists have traditionally been very cautious when studying the interaction between employment and health because of the two-way causal relationship between these two variables: health status influences the probability of being employed and, at the same time, working affects the health status. Because these two variables are determined simultaneously, researchers control endogeneity bias (e.g., reverse causality, omitted variables) when conducting empirical analysis. With these caveats in mind, the literature finds that a favourable work environment and high job security lead to better health conditions. Being employed with appropriate working conditions plays a protective role on physical health and psychiatric disorders. By contrast, non-employment and retirement are generally worse for mental health than employment, and overemployment has a negative effect on health. These findings stress the importance of employment and of adequate working conditions for the health of workers. In this context, it is a concern that a significant proportion of European workers (29%) would like to work fewer hours because unwanted long hours are likely to signal a poor level of job satisfaction and inadequate working conditions, with detrimental effects on health. Thus, in Europe, labour-market policy has increasingly paid attention to job sustainability and job satisfaction. The literature clearly invites employers to take better account of the worker preferences when setting the number of hours worked. Overall, a specific “flexicurity” (combination of high employment protection, job satisfaction and active labour-market policies) is likely to have a positive effect on health. This Working Paper relates to the 2014 OECD Economic Survey of the United States (www.oecd.org/eco/surveys/United States ).

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