Research on inequality, instability and employment

The current economic crisis has renewed interest in the importance of equitable income distribution for development, employment and social cohesion. But there is no consensus on how best to achieve equity. Many academics and policy-makers have argued that increased education and training opportunities will improve income distribution, but little attention has been paid to the role that labour market institutions could play.

This research programme seeks to better understand how wage and income inequality are affected by labour market institutions – including minimum wages, collective bargaining, type of employment contract, social security, social assistance and the provision of public goods.

Recognizing that the structure of an economy, market forces and labour institutions all shape wages and incomes in a country, the research will analyse different levels of distribution, including between wages and profits (functional distribution), amongst workers (primary distribution) and within and amongst households (secondary distribution). The research programme will also analyse how wage and income inequality affect job creation and social and economic development, paying attention to the link between equity and macroeconomic performance.

The overall objective of the research programme is to inform the policy advice given to ILO constituents on the scope and limitations of labour market institutions for altering the distribution of income.

Featured publications

  1. ILO Research paper No. 10

    Why is female labour force participation declining so sharply in India?

    This paper attempts to shed light on the causes behind the recent sharp decline in female labour force participation in India and to identify factors underpinning the long-term stagnation in female participation.

  2. International Journal of Labour Research

    Crisis: Causes, prospects and alternative

    This issue of the International Journal of Labour Research provides an important contribution to the intellectual endeavor of understanding what led to the crisis and to establishing new building blocks for an alternative macroeconomic and development paradigm.

  3. International Journal of Labour Research

    Social Justice and Growth: The role of the minimum wage

    This special issue of the International Journal of Labour Research is wholly dedicated to the question of the minimum wage, a matter that has gained in importance and profile in recent years.

  4. ILO Research Paper No. 1

    Income Inequality, Redistribution and Poverty: Contrasting rational choice and behavioural perspectives

    This paper revisits the relationship between inequality and redistribution. The findings challenge the narrow concept of rational choice and points towards fairness orientations, which is emphasized in behavioural economics for a better understanding of redistributive outcomes.

  5. Book

    Work Inequalities in the Crisis: Evidence from Europe

    This book provides an in-depth overview of the effects of the crisis on inequalities in the world of work. It examines these inequalities multi-dimensionally, looking at employment, wages and incomes, working conditions and social dialogue.

  6. Studies on Growth with Equity: Tunisia

    Studies on Growth with Equity - Tunisia: A New Social Contract for Fair and Equitable Growth

    Tunisia, the country at the forefront of the “Arab Spring”, is a stark example of the fragility of an economic system based on an inefficient growth model. In spite of the country’s strong growth and apparently stable macroeconomic environment,the benefits of growth were unevenly distributed. There was widespread inequality, high unemployment, rampant clientelism, and limited opportunities for decent work. The events have opened a window of opportunity by creating space for a policy debate on building an inclusive model of development. The purpose of this Report is, first, to provide an in-depth analysis of the contradictions that characterized inequitable growth. Second, the Report puts forward ideas for a new development model for Tunisia, based on equal economic and social opportunities, and therefore shared prosperity.

  7. Book

    The Role of Collective Bargaining in the Global Economy: Negotiating for Social Justice

    This book looks at the role that collective bargaining plays in ensuring that workers are able to obtain a fair share of the benefits arising from participation in the global economy and in providing a measure of security against the risk to employment and wages.

  8. Working paper

    Issues in labour market inequality and women’s participation in India’s National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme

    This paper focuses on women’s participation in the NREGP and analyses the potential impact of the programme in the medium term on women’s access to wage work and wages of women workers in rural India.

  9. Conditions of Work and Employment Series No. 26

    Extending the coverage of minimum wages in India: Simulations from household data

    This paper simulates the impact of extending the coverage of minimum wages on poverty, inequality and gender pay gap in India. The analysis shows that if all wage-earners were covered by minimum wages at the existing levels, then a large proportion of low-paid wage earners could be directly affected.