Making the case for LMIC to be partners in the global solution for COVID-19

By Kaouthar Lbiati

The growing success of efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, may present yet another hurdle – How to end lockdown without causing a second wave? There is no modern analog for the shutdown of economic activity. Ending the lockdown needs unparalleled capabilities in testing, tracing and most importantly it needs researchers to deliver a new vaccine!


This paper makes the case for low and middle-income countries (LMIC) to be part of the clinical evaluation of the efficacy and safety of the COVID-19 future vaccine, the ramping up of regional manufacturing capabilities for local immunization and underscores the critical importance of reaching an advanced purchase agreement with manufacturers and suppliers as well as building up multilateral financial partnerships with key institutions before even a vaccine is made available in either North America, Asia and/or Europe.

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Vocational education in China

By Li Dai and Pedro Martins

Vocational education is an important and well-established alternative to academic education. In most countries, the number of vocational graduates is now on par with that of academic graduates. In the case of China, there are approximately 11 million students graduating with vocational education qualifications annually, only slightly less than the around 12 million academic graduates per year.

Dai Martins MAR2020

Figure 1. The density of secondary vocational schools in China (More details in the paper)

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Training grants: a useful policy to address productivity gaps (including during the corona virus outbreak)?

By Pedro S. Martins

Recent research by the European Investment Bank indicates that workers in Europe spend less than 0.5% of their working time on training. This figure seems too low and indeed economics has long predicted some degree of under-provision of training. First, training is expensive for firms, as it entails significant direct and indirect costs. Second, employers know they will lose their investments in training if employees subsequently leave.

Public policy may play a role in alleviating the market failure that leads to such under-provision of training. The new working paper featured in this blog (‘Employee training and firm performance’) contributes empirical evidence to this question. The research evaluates the effects of a €200-million EU training grants scheme on different dimensions of firms.

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The Industrial Revolution: capabilities and institutions


In my previous post, I summarised a demand-side explanation of the British Industrial Revolution. In this post, I will outline a supply-side explanation put forward by economic historians Margaret Jacob and Joel Mokyr. According to the supporters of the supply-side explanation, Britain had a supply of human capital who were capable of using science and engineering knowledge to solve practical problems. Besides having a comparative advantage in human capital over continental Europe, by the eighteenth century, Britain had the necessary institutional environment that promoted the principles of the market economy. Interaction between the forces of market economy and science made the practical applications of scientific discoveries more successful in Britain. This did not happen in continental Europe, because, for centuries, the political and religious establishment had been restricting the advancement of science if it conflicted with their political agenda and Western Europe was politically fragmented.

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Are profits shared with workers in China’s factories?

By Wenjing Duan and Prof. Pedro S. Martins

China’s recent emergence in the world economy was underpinned by a massive process of labour reallocation delivered by the country’s nascent labour market. After several decades in which labour was allocated and rewarded centrally, according to communist principles, a number of market-oriented reforms led to greater flexibility and responsiveness to demand and supply. Given the large pool of underemployed workers eager to increase their incomes, in particular in rural areas – over 150 million people according to some estimates –, the potential for growth from industrialisation and exports was considerable.

China Duan Martins

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Collective bargaining in Southern Europe: Quo vadis?

By Prof. Pedro Martins
#collectivebargaining #extensions #microdata #policyevaluation #socialdialogue #EuropeanUnion #collectiveagreements #employment #wages #inequality

This note summarises the research presented in a policy workshop held last week in Brussels. The studies were conducted under the ‘Economic Analysis of Collective Bargaining Extensions’ (CoBExt) project, funded by the European Union, and focused on the cases of Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain.


In my introduction, I presented a comparison of collective bargaining (CB) across the four countries. Despite generally low trade union density rates, particularly in the private sector, these countries exhibit very high CB coverage, precisely because of widespread and nearly automatic (explicit or implicit) extensions. The exceptions to these practices were Greece and Portugal but only during their adjustment programmes, when extensions were entirely suspended (Greece) or made conditional on representativeness criteria similar to other EU Member States (Portugal). In Greece, firm-level CB agreements were also boosted through the suspension of the favourability principle, which allowed for greater differentiation in working conditions across firms.

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