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Divining the future of work

Simeon Djankov's picture
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“I like work, it fascinates me,” said Jerome K Jerome. “I can sit and look at it for hours.” We concur with the author of “Three Men in a Boat’, a novel which so fascinated Late Victorian England that, within a year of publication, the number of vessels on the River Thames had doubled.

We too love work and we anticipate that our devotion to it will result in Jeromesque adulation. The early signs are good; our report is still in draft stage but it has already been downloaded more than 20,000 times. You can discover for yourself why it’s proving so popular by clicking here.

As economists our fascination with work has nothing to do with Jerome’s mirthful quip (but just think how many enduring jobs were created as a result of his fictitious river journey) and everything to do with untangling a riddle that is embedded in the zeitgeist. Google ‘the future of work’ and, in 0.56 seconds, 115,000,000 results appear.



We are living through transformative, perhaps epochal times, when the only thing we can be sure of is persisting uncertainty. What will our children do for a living? Never mind the kids, what about us -will we make it to retirement? And how will we pay for it? Will the robots rise against us?

Cigarettes or the Greek Islands? The deal my dad offered me

Damien de Walque's picture

When I was a teenager in Belgium, my parents wanted to make sure that I wouldn’t become a smoker. At the age of 15, I had tried a few cigarettes with friends and they were worried I would pick up the habit. They could have organized a complicated system of surveillance and sanctions to monitor and prevent my smoking behavior. Instead, my dad offered me a very simple deal: “if you are not smoking by the time you graduate from high school, I will pay your trip to a destination of your choice in Europe during the summer before you start college”. My dad’s deal worked well: I took a great trip to Greece – my first flight – with a few friends and I have never smoked after those first cigarettes at 15.

Why commodity prices are rising, in nine charts

John Baffes's picture
Commodity prices strengthened in early 2018, supported by supply and demand factors, including accelerated global growth, which has lifted demand for most industrial commodities, and supply constraints affecting others.

Chart 1: Commodity prices are forecast to rise across the board

The energy price index is anticipated to rise 20 percent in 2018, largely on strengthening of oil prices. The increase is a 16-percentage point upward revision from October 2017. Metal prices are projected to increase 9 percent in 2018 due to a further pickup in demand. Agricultural prices are forecast to gain more than 2 percent.
 
2018 commodity price rise forecasts (percent change from 2017 to 2018)
Source: World Bank

Capital account liberalization and controls: Structural or cyclical policy tools?

Poonam Gupta's picture

Capital flows to emerging market economies are deemed volatile, driven more by external than domestic factors. Surges in capital flows often generate macroeconomic imbalances in emerging markets, resulting in rapid credit growth, asset price inflation, and economic overheating. Reversals are disruptive too, often causing financial volatility, economic slowdown, and in some cases distress in the banking and corporate sectors.

Informing rapid emergency response by phone surveys

Utz Pape's picture

In 2017, a severe and prolonged drought had hit countries in Africa and the Middle East, bringing crop shortage, livestock death, water scarcity and disease. Food shortages escalated into near-famine conditions in countries with low resilience against shocks, such as Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen. In such a context, rapid quantitative data is required to respond to urgent developmental needs of the affected populations. Therefore, we designed and implemented the Rapid Emergency Response Survey (RERS).

Oil exporters after the 2014-16 price collapse: In need of deeper reforms

Marc Stocker's picture
The 70 percent drop in oil prices between mid-2014 and early 2016 was one of the three largest oil-price declines in recent history, and despite a recent recovery, oil prices are still around 30 percent below their 2011-14 average. This created substantial obstacles for many oil exporters as they faced a combination of deteriorating growth prospects, exchange rate pressures, and weakened fiscal positions.

How have oil exporters coped with these challenges, and what further trials will they face in coming years? This article provides some answers, with the benefit of insights.

Do firms benefit from capital inflows?

Sergio Schmukler's picture

In 2014, foreign investors invested more than one trillion U.S. dollars into emerging countries. Of those inflows, 90 billion U.S. dollars came in the form of equity financing. On aggregate, capital inflows have helped may developing countries invest and grow, even despite the associated volatility they might entail. But we still do not know how those inflows are transmitted within an economy once they arrive.

Investment in emerging and developing economies: Accelerating but still subpar

Dana Vorisek's picture

After a prolonged slowdown, investment growth in emerging markets and developing economies (EMDEs) picked up to 4.5 percent in 2017, and is projected to accelerate to 5.2 percent in 2018 and 2019 (investment refers to real gross fixed capital formation, public and private combined). Yet projected investment growth is below its long-term (1990–2017) average, inhibited by political uncertainty, trade risks, and expectations of rising interest rates. This will likely limit potential output growth and delay per-capita income convergence between EMDEs and advanced economies.

Energy prices advanced, fertilizer prices declined in April -- Pink Sheet

John Baffes's picture
Energy commodity prices gained 8.2 percent in April, led by a 40 percent increase in U.S. natural gas prices, the World Bank’s Pink Sheet reported.

Non-energy prices advanced 1.8 percent while agricultural prices increased 1.7 percent on higher prices for wheat (up 11 percent), rice and cocoa (4 percent rises each), soybean meal and tea (4 percent gains each). Fertilizer prices decreased 0.7 percent, led by a 5 percent drop in urea.

Metals prices gained 2.3 percent, led by gains in aluminum (up 9 percent) and nickel (4 percent rise).

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