Policy Brief Series

Regardless of whether we are exploring the real-world impact of technological progress, rising inequality, tax and trade policy, or changing social norms: the UBS Center Policy Brief series can give governments and businesses the rigorous and clear insights needed for informed debates and decisions. Our policy briefs are a condensed and non-technical version of some of our top research papers. They cover a complex issue in a way that can help readers understand and decide about government policies.

To what extent can differences in culture and attitudes towards work explain differences in unemployment across time and space? This policy brief examines variations in the time that unemployed people in Switzerland spend looking for work, comparing residents of Swiss nationality who speak German with residents who speak French or Italian. According to survey evidence and voting results, the Swiss language border separates two social groups with different cultural backgrounds and attitudes towards work. Despite similar local labor markets, French and Italian speakers who lose their job spend almost seven weeks longer in unemployment than their German-speaking neighbors. This effect is comparable to a large increase in the generosity of unemployment insurance.

Culture and work attitude by Josef Zweimüller Download

Under what circumstances might the adoption of labor-saving technology lead to extreme social instability? This policy brief examines the case of the Captain Swing riots in the industrializing England of the 1830s, bringing new insights to this old episode by collecting original data on the diffusion of the threshing machine, an innovation that led to severe labor unrest in wheat-growing parts of the country. The evidence illustrates that while new technologies typically boost output overall, not everyone benefits – and the losers may not always suffer in silence. Societies need to find ways to cushion the blow of technological unemployment, perhaps by offering alternative work or providing minimum income guarantees.

Rage against the machines by Bruno Caprettini and Joachim Voth Download

Finanz und Wirtschaft, 12.11.2018: “Der Feind, die Maschine” Read

YouTube comment by Bruno Caprettini Watch

Demand for high-skilled workers who perform cognitive tasks has increased dramatically in the United States over the past four decades, with the biggest change between 1980 and 2000. This policy brief shows that the increase in demand was not experienced equally by both genders: despite rapid growth in employment in high-paying occupations, the probability that a college-educated man was employed in such a job fell, while the prospects for college-educated women improved. The key driver seems to be growing demand for social skills, such as empathy, communication, emotion recognition and verbal expression, in which evidence from psychological research indicates that women have a comparative advantage.

The end of men by Nir Jaimovich Download

NZZ am Sonntag, 3.11.2018: “Männer sind kaum gefragt” Read

VoxEU, 14.12.2018: “The End of Men - Interview with Henry Siu” Listen

YouTube comment by Nir Jaimovich Watch