Recessions leave scars on the labor market. Over 200 million people across the globe are estimated to be unemployed at present resulting from the Great Recession of 2007–09. We assess the human cost of increased unemployment by surveying what is known about the effects of past recessions. If past is prologue, the cost to the unemployed (and society) could be high. The focus of this paper is on advanced economies. To their credit, most countries mounted strong policy responses to minimize the human costs, and the policy actions were notable also for their consistency and coherence across countries.
Mr. Athanasios Vamvakidis, Mr. Francis Vitek, Ms. Mwanza Nkusu, Mr. Reginald Darius, Mr. Alun H. Thomas, and Edouard Vidon
The human cost of the recent global crisis is reflected in its impact on the labor market. Explaining why economies with similar downturns had very different employment trends can help design policies to reduce such costs and improve labor markets. This paper analyzes the recent employment experiences of six economies: Germany, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Spain, and Sweden. These economies represent a wide range of labor market institutions, policy responses, and outcomes to the crisis. The divergence of labor market outcomes and of the effectiveness of policies during the crisis can be explained by the interaction between the nature of the shocks and differences in the structure and institutions of each country’s economy. The worst job losses compared to the drop in output followed permanent shocks, particularly in dual labor markets and in the presence of wage rigidities. Policies to avoid job cuts were much more effective when they were well-targeted and responded to temporary shocks. In contrast, policies to facilitate labor movements were more appropriate following permanent shocks.