The COVID-19 pandemic will exacerbate Spain’s already large inclusion gap. Responding in the recovery with policies that support social objectives should be a key priority and calls for several structural changes. This paper summarizes some of the main drivers behind the social dispersion, which pre-dates the COVID-19 crisis, and policy options. The focus is on how to address the fragmented labor market, tackle pressures on rental-housing affordability, and lower the gender pay gap.1, 2
This 2020 Article IV Consultation with Italy reflects discussions with the Italian authorities in January 2020 and is based on the information available as of January 28, 2020. It focuses on Italy’s medium-term challenges and policy priorities and was prepared prior to the outbreak of COVID-19 in Italy. It, therefore, does not cover the outbreak or the related policy response, which has since become the overarching near-term priority. The outbreak has greatly amplified uncertainty and downside risks around the outlook. Staff is closely monitoring this health crisis and will continue to work on assessing its impact and the related policy response in Italy and globally. The overarching challenges are to raise growth and enhance resilience. The IMF staff projects growth in Italy to be the lowest in the European Union over the next five years. High public debt remains a key source of vulnerability. Substantial progress has been made in strengthening bank balance sheets, but important weaknesses remain. In order to durably raise growth and reduce vulnerabilities, Italy needs faster potential growth and medium-term fiscal consolidation.
This 2019 Article IV Consultation with Republic of Macedonia discusses that after a protracted political crisis, the economy has entered a period of solid growth and stability. Over the recent years, the authorities have reviewed the reform momentum, with crucial institutional and governance reforms and efforts to make public finances more sustainable and equitable. Growth is expected to accelerate in 2020. Lower taxes and higher pensions and wages?including public sector and minimum wages?are expected to provide a further, albeit one-off, stimulus to consumption. Export and investment growth would remain robust but slow somewhat, reflecting weak growth in trading partners. An ambitious consolidation is needed to rebuild fiscal policy space and re-orient public spending toward investment. Reforms to address key labor market and institutional weaknesses will help lift medium-term growth and speed up income convergence. Although growth has been solid in the past two decades, it has not been enough to substantially narrow North Macedonia’s large income gap with the European Union. In order to accelerate convergence, it is essential to continue reforms to improve the public administration, rule of law, and control of corruption.
This Selected Issues paper explores the links between wage policies, non-wage cost developments, and competitiveness. A series of program-era policies helped to partially reverse this trend, including labor market policies that cushioned the effect of the crisis on employment and brought unit labor costs broadly in line with trading partners. However, the resulting more competitive wage structure only partly translated into price adjustments due to product market rigidities (with firms retaining some profit margin) and rising non-wage cost factors (e.g., taxes and financing costs). This incomplete internal devaluation and subsequent low productivity gains reinforce the view that Greece has further to go to address its external imbalances. However, labor policy reversals following program exit in August 2018 threaten this objective. The paper shows that Greece must preserve its labor cost competitiveness while increasing efforts to facilitate price adjustment in product markets and reduce non-wage costs.
International Monetary Fund. Western Hemisphere Dept.
This Selected Issues paper on Mexico documents the composition, trends, and labor market implications of informality using data from the National Employment Survey (ENOE). Over half of the employed population has informal contractual relationships in Mexico both at formal and informal firms. Informality is found to be associated with lower levels of pay—even when accounting for worker composition differences—and lower wage growth over the life cycle. Policy drivers of this market duality, including minimum wage policy, are discussed. The results suggest that informality tends to select workers with lower earnings potential and limits their development. Informality indeed tends to be more prevalent among younger and less educated workers, for which better paid jobs are harder to come by. Moreover, it appears to lead workers toward a path of limited earnings and perhaps skill growth potential. Future labor market reforms should take a holistic approach that addresses both distributional concerns and formality barriers. One alternative is to reduce dependence on payroll taxes that are biased toward formal salaried workers while transitioning toward a social insurance system that provides good-quality services for all, irrespective of their salaried/nonsalaried status.
International Monetary Fund. Asia and Pacific Dept
This Selected Issues chapter outlines a strategy to facilitate this and navigate the more challenging monetary environment, involving enhanced communication of policy interest rate intentions and inflation-forecast targeting. The reduction in the inflation target by a percentage point to 2 percent in January 2016 weakened the nominal anchor. Monetary policy can play a role rebuilding the credibility of the anchor more rapidly through the adoption of inflation-forecast targeting. This strengthening of the monetary policy framework involves enhancing communications. An effective, credible monetary policy cannot address all macroeconomic challenges facing Korea. Rather, it can foster robust growth with low inflation, providing a stable and predictable environment that allows other policies to work more effectively. These other policies play a complementary role. Fiscal policy can reinforce the effectiveness of monetary policy, as illustrated by model scenarios. Structural policies can also support monetary policy by, for example, boosting potential growth.
This 2017 Article IV Consultation highlights slower growth in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia following a solid economic recovery since the global financial crisis. Growth slowed to 2.4 percent in 2016 and contracted by 0.9 percent in the first half of 2017. Economic activity has been supported by private consumption and exports, while negative effects from prolonged political instability have restrained investment and slowed down corporate credit growth. Inflation has gradually picked up, after staying negative during the past few years. Public debt is projected to rise to 47 percent of GDP in 2017. Currently, the government is in the process of preparing the draft economic program.
This Selected Issues paper analyzes the high household savings in Sweden. Preliminary evidence suggests that the large increase in savings after the financial crisis may reflect the rising cost of elder care. Econometric analysis appears to confirm anecdotal explanations that extended life expectancy and a preference for higher-quality residential care have contributed to higher savings. Further analysis using more granular data is needed to test alternative hypotheses for the rise in household savings. Anecdotal reports also indicate that parental assistance in young people’s home purchases could be behind the increased saving and serves as an additional bequest motive. Investigating this possibility would benefit significantly from household level data.