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.
Figure 1. The density of secondary vocational schools in China (More details in the paper)
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.
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.
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.
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.
On the 19th of October, we hosted the fifth meeting on the ‘Theory and Empirics of Inequality, Poverty and Mobility’, at the QMUL premises on Charterhouse Square, London. There was a large spread of theoretical and applied issues addressed in the six papers presented. In the morning three papers discussed issues related to the measurement of mobility and poverty, with applications to the EU, Mexico and with global poverty data, while in the afternoon three papers discussed the impact of mining on individual well-being in Sub-Saharan Africa, how social connections and financial incentives affect productivity in tasks that require coordination among workers via an experiment in a garment factory in India, and a final paper evaluating the effect of aid on conflict in Indonesia.