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VoxEU (Europe) 07/16/2020
At a moment when policymakers are putting increased efforts into tackling gender gaps in the labour market, it is worth asking whether robotization could worsen pay disparities between men and women. Using new evidence from 20 European countries, this column finds that men at medium- and high-skill occupations disproportionately benefit from robotisation, especially in countries where gender inequality was already severe. The authors recommend that governments pay attention to automation’s distributional issues, and increase their efforts to equip women and men equally with the skills most relevant for future employability.
VoxEU (Europe) 07/16/2020
Sharp changes in consumer expenditure may bias inflation during the Covid-19 pandemic. This column measures the effects of the Covid-induced weighting bias on the Swiss consumer price index by quantifying the changes in consumer spending using public data from debit card transactions, updating CPI basket weights and constructing an alternative ‘Covid price index’. There is evidence that Covid inflation was higher during the lockdown than suggested by CPI inflation. Persistent ‘low-touch’ consumer behaviour may lead to inflation being underestimated through to the end of 2020.
VoxEU (Europe) 07/16/2020
Corporate culture is an important determinant of firm performance but has often been overlooked in economic research. This column presents a theory of the firm based on corporate culture. In firms, employees develop a product in house according to shared values, customs, and norms that each stem from a shared culture. Firms exist because, at times, corporate culture fulfils production more efficiently than detailed contracts would. Further, consistent with empirical evidence, this study shows how some mergers and acquisitions can fail and why corporate cultures are often hard to change once in place.
VoxEU (Europe) 07/15/2020
There is a long-standing debate on whether financial crises can be predicted. This column draws on a chronology of past financial crises and data on credit and asset prices for a panel of 42 countries between 1950-2016 and finds that if there is a large credit expansion with an asset price boom, then financial crises are highly predictable. These results are used to motivate a simple indicator that identifies periods of potential credit-market overheating. The indicator is shown to predict past crises in advance, suggesting that policymakers have time to act and take prophylactic policy interventions.
VoxEU (Europe) 07/15/2020
Places differ in the degree to which they can maintain economic activity through remote working in the face of shocks such as the COVID-19 pandemic. This column assesses the capacity of regions in 30 developed economies to shift to remote working during a lockdown. Based on individual-level data on occupations from labour force surveys, it shows that cities – and in particular capitals – typically have a higher share of occupations suitable for remote working. This may offset some of the stronger negative economic impacts of COVID-related policies on cities. Regional disparities in the capacity for remote working also clearly reflect the level of education of the workforce.
VoxEU (Europe) 07/15/2020
Temperature can affect human health and mortality. Historical evidence on the changing relationship between temperature and mortality may be useful in today’s world as we consider adaptive strategies to face global warming. This column uses detailed weekly mortality data from London for 1866–1965 to examine how the temperature-mortality relationship changed as the city developed. In 1866–1914, high-temperature events increase mortality for several weeks, but much of the effect of high temperatures on mortality has disappeared after WWI. The change is linked to the significant reduction in infant digestive disease around 1900.
VoxEU (Europe) 07/15/2020
Governments and economists are now focused on the macroeconomic policies that can support economies during the Covid-19 pandemic. Yet, for policies to be effective and economies to function, payment systems and services must operate efficiently, reliably, and securely. The third column of this series analyses the role that a central bank digital currency can play in this context, and outlines the key steps required for its successful implementation. In addition, the column proposes improvements to the existing payments infrastructure to ensure continued operability, especially in times of emergency.
VoxEU (Europe) 07/15/2020
Faced with COVID-19, people rationally and voluntarily respond to information on risks, making it difficult to distinguish the effect of containment policies from that of voluntary behavioural responses. This column examines the effect of mandatory mask policies on COVID-19 cases and deaths in the US. If the US had on 1 April 2020 universally mandated that employees of public-facing businesses use masks, there could have been nearly 40% fewer deaths by the start of June. Containment policies had a large impact on the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths, directly by reducing transmission rates and indirectly by constraining people’s behaviour, and account for roughly half the observed change in the growth rates of cases and deaths.
VoxEU (Europe) 07/14/2020
Many developing countries do not have adequate health infrastructure or the capacity to effectively implement lockdown policies to contain the spread of COVID-19. This column studies the historical experience of Italy during the 1918 Great Influenza in order to shed light on the consequences of pandemics in societies where it is difficult to implement lockdown policies or where healthcare systems are lacking. Using regional GDP and mortality data, it finds a strong negative effect of the pandemic on local economic growth. However, these adverse effects mostly dissipated three years after the pandemic.
VoxEU (Europe) 07/13/2020 22:58
One of the most urgent economic impacts of the Covid-19 crisis is on labour markets. Widespread job losses, drastic increases in unemployment benefit claims, and the rise of working from home have dominated the discussion during the pandemic so far. This column presents evidence from the US, arguing that the pandemic itself represents reallocation of labour within the economy. As different sectors and occupations are hit with variable severity, the authors argue that policymakers should be wary of this variation, responding with policies that will hold firm over time.
VoxEU (Europe) 07/13/2020 22:58
Liquidity restrictions on investors, like the redemption gates and liquidity fees introduced in the 2016 money market fund (MMF) reform, are meant to improve financial stability during a crisis. However, by comparing the latest outflow episode due to COVID-19 to those in 2008 and 2011, this column finds evidence that these liquidity restrictions might have exacerbated the run on prime MMFs in this episode. Such severe outflows amid frozen short-term funding markets led the Federal Reserve to intervene with the Money Market Mutual Fund Liquidity Facility (MMLF). By providing ‘liquidity of last resort’, the MMLF successfully stopped the run on prime MMFs and gradually stabilised conditions in short-term funding markets.
VoxEU (Europe) 07/13/2020 22:58
Governments and economists are now focused on the macroeconomic policies that can support economies during the Covid-19 pandemic. Yet, for policies to be effective and economies to function, payment systems and services must operate efficiently, reliably, and securely. The second column of this series discusses the special role that government payments and international remittances play, in particular for developing economies, and identifies measures to ensure their accessibility and resilience especially at times of emergencies.
VoxEU (Europe) 07/13/2020
The crisis generated by the Covid-19 pandemic has required rapid and strong action. It also entails key choices, including on how the EU could help mitigate the impact of Covid-19, foster the economic recovery and support the dual green and digital transitions. In September 2019, before the crisis, the Directorate General for Economy and Finance of the European Commission organised a workshop on strengthening the institutional architecture of the EMU. This eBook presents the main ideas discussed at the workshop.
VoxEU (Europe) 07/13/2020
The crisis generated by the Covid-19 pandemic has required rapid and strong action. It also entails key choices, including on how the EU could help mitigate the impact of Covid-19, foster the economic recovery and support the dual green and digital transitions. In September 2019, before the crisis, the Directorate General for Economy and Finance of the European Commission organised a workshop on strengthening the institutional architecture of the EMU. This column introduces a new eBook which presents the main ideas discussed at the workshop.
VoxEU (Europe) 07/12/2020 20:12
A major policy issue for many governments is how long a lockdown introduced to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus should be maintained. This column analyses what an assessment of costs and benefits of lockdown imply for how policy should be set in the UK. The question is simple: Has the length of the UK lockdown been warranted and should restrictions now be eased significantly? Using a wide range of scenarios for costs and benefits it appears as though extending the UK lockdown beyond three-months (that is beyond June) was not likely to be optimal.
VoxEU (Europe) 07/12/2020 20:12
Governments and economists are now focused on the macroeconomic policies that can support economies during the Covid-19 pandemic. Yet, for policies to be effective and economies to function, payment and settlement systems and services – collectively referred to as the National Payments System – must operate efficiently, reliably, and securely. The first column of this series identifies the challenges affecting payment services during emergencies and discusses measures to ensure that payment systems keep operating. Public authorities should be proactive in mitigating risks to payment systems to support economic activity and help the public.
VoxEU (Europe) 07/12/2020 20:12
The severe economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic could threaten financial stability. Since accounting-based methods report loan losses with a delay, this column adopts a real-time, market-based assessment of the impact on corporate loan portfolios. Using European stock market data, it estimates that the market-implied losses for euro area banks could reach over €1 trillion, or, depending on the scenario, 7-43% of available bank capital.
VoxEU (Europe) 07/12/2020 20:12
Both the severity of the recession in Europe in 2020 and the subsequent bounce back of economies are likely to differ markedly across member states. Avoiding that the current crisis risks will be remembered as the Great Fragmentation is a key goal of the EU strategy. This column looks at the lessons learned during the financial crisis, and argues that a more consensual narrative, the lower risks of moral hazard and the rising political awareness that Europe has to count on ‘indigenous’ growth drivers provide a better chance of adopting an ambitious EU policy response. Whether it will also lead to deeper political integration, will depend on finalising long-lasting open institutional 'chantiers' such as Banking Union and Capital Markets Unio.
VoxEU (Europe) 07/11/2020 22:28
We do not yet know whether individuals who recover from COVID-19 can be reinfected. If immunity wanes, the disease will become endemic, in sharp contrast to a model in which recovery confers permanent immunity. This column considers the possibility that immunity is indeed only temporary, and derives a stylised optimal containment policy to reduce the initial wave of contagion and then manage persistent infections. In practice, this means that partial lockdowns and social distancing measures may be the norm for years to come.

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