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Looking Inside the Perpetual-Motion Machine: Job and Worker Flows in OECD Countries


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  • Andrea Bassanini
  • Pascal Marianna


In the economic literature there is an increasing interest in the process of job creation and destruction as well of hirings and separations. Many studies suggest that idiosyncratic firm-level characteristics shape both job and worker flows in a similar way in all countries. Others argue that cross-country differences in terms of gross job flows are minor. However, these statements are usually based on the comparison of national estimates, typically collected on the basis of different definitions and collection protocols. By contrast, in this paper, we use crosscountry comparable data on both job and worker flows to examine key determinants of these flows and of their cross-country differences. We find that idiosyncratic firm (industry, firm age and size) and worker (age, gender, education) characteristics play an important role for both gross job and worker flows in all countries. Nevertheless, in contrast with part of the literature, we find that, even controlling for these idiosyncratic factors, cross-country differences concerning both gross job and worker flows appear large and of a similar magnitude. Both job and worker flows in countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom exceed those in certain continental European countries by a factor of two. Moreover, the variation of worker flows across different dimensions is well explained by the variation of job flows, suggesting that, to a certain extent, the two flows can be used as substitutes in cross-country analysis. Consistently, churning flows, that is flows originating by firms churning workers and employees quitting and being replaced, display much less variation across countries. La littérature économique consacre un intérêt de plus en plus grand pour le processus de création et de destruction d’emplois ainsi que pour les flux d’embauches et de séparations. Plusieurs études soulignent que les caractéristiques propres aux entreprises façonnent les flux d’emplois et de main-d’œuvre de manière similaire dans tous les pays. D’autres soutiennent que les différences inter-pays des flux bruts d’emplois ne sont pas très grandes. Cependant, ces constats s’appuient généralement sur des comparaisons d’estimations nationales reposant sur différentes définitions et protocoles de collecte de données. En revanche, dans ce document, nous utilisons des données comparables entre les pays sur les flux d’emplois et de main-d’œuvre afin d’examiner les déterminants principaux de ces flux et des différences inter-pays. Nous trouvons que les caractéristiques propres aux entreprises (le secteur d’activité, l’âge et la taille des entreprises) et aux salariés (l’âge, le sexe et le niveau d’éducation) jouent un rôle important pour les flux d’emplois et de main-d’œuvre dans tous les pays. Néanmoins, contrairement à une partie de la littérature, nous trouvons que, même à structure constante pour ces caractéristiques, les différences inter-pays des flux d’emplois et de main-d’œuvre demeurent importantes et de même ampleur. Les flux d’emplois et de main-d’œuvre aux États-Unis et au Royaume-Uni sont deux fois plus importants que ceux observés dans certains pays d’Europe continentale. En outre, la variation des flux de main-d’œuvre selon différentes dimensions est bien expliquée par la variation des flux d’emplois, ce qui permet de suggérer, dans une certaine mesure, que les deux variables peuvent être utilisées comme des substituts dans les analyses inter-pays. En revanche, les flux de déplacement de la main d’oeuvre, résultant de la substitution des salariés sur les mêmes emplois opérée par les entreprises ou par les départs et remplacement de salariés, sont marqués par nettement moins de variation entre les pays.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by OECD Publishing in its series OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers with number 95.

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Date of creation: 15 Sep 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:oec:elsaab:95-en

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Cited by:
  1. Brian Silverstone & Will Bell, 2011. "Gross Labour Market Flows in New Zealand: Some Questions and Answers," Working Papers in Economics 11/15, University of Waikato, Department of Economics.
  2. repec:hal:journl:halshs-00593952 is not listed on IDEAS
  3. John Martin & Stefano Scarpetta, 2012. "Setting It Right: Employment Protection, Labour Reallocation and Productivity," De Economist, Springer, vol. 160(2), pages 89-116, June.
  4. Augusto Ruperez Micola & Francisco Penaranda, 2011. "On the divers of commodity co-movement: Evidence from biofuels," CREA Discussion Paper Series 11-14, Center for Research in Economic Analysis, University of Luxembourg.
  5. Michael Anyadike-Danes & Carl-Magnus Bjuggren & Sandra Gottschalk & Werner Hölzl & Dan Johansson & Mika Maliranta & Anja Myrann, 2013. "Accounting for Job Growth: Disentangling Size and Age Effects in an International Cohort Comparison," Research Papers 0002, University of Warwick, Warwick Business School, Enterprise Research Centre.
  6. Kevin X. D. Huang & Gregory W. Huffman, 2010. "A Defense of the Current US Tax Treatment of Employer-Provided Medical Insurance," Vanderbilt University Department of Economics Working Papers 1001, Vanderbilt University Department of Economics.
  7. Richard Duhautois & Fabrice Gilles & Héloïse Petit, 2012. "Worker flows and establishment wage differentials : a breakdown of the relationship," Université Paris1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (Post-Print and Working Papers) hal-00833872, HAL.
  8. Luca Marchiori & Olivier Pierrard, 2012. "LOLA 2.0: Luxembourg OverLapping generation model for policy Analysis," BCL working papers 76, Central Bank of Luxembourg.
  9. Tobias Brändle & Wolf Dieter Heinbach, 2013. "Opening Clauses in Collective Bargaining Agreements: More Flexibility to Save Jobs?," Review of Economics, Lucius & Lucius, vol. 64(2), pages 159-192.
  10. Bellmann, Lutz & Gerner, Hans-Dieter & Upward, Richard, 2011. "Job and Worker Turnover in German Establishments," IZA Discussion Papers 6081, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  11. Centeno, Mario & Machado, Carla & Novo, Alvaro A., 2009. "Excess Turnover and Employment Growth: Firm and Match Heterogeneity," IZA Discussion Papers 4586, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).


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