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Regular version of the site

‘A Workshop Like This Is Not Only a Show of Results, But Also a Discussion of New Ideas’

Hartmut Lehmann, Vladimir Gimpelson, Sergey Roshchin
Hartmut Lehmann, Vladimir Gimpelson, Sergey Roshchin
In October 2012, the Institute for the Study of Labour (IZA) and the Higher School of Economics held an international workshop ‘Labor Market Adjustment in the Commonwealth of Independent States, Central Asia and China in the Wake of the Great Recession’. Vladimir Gimpelson, Director of the HSE Centre for Labour Market Studies, spoke to us about the event and its results.

— Dr. Gimpelson, first of all, could you please tell us something about the IZA institute?

— The Institute for the Study of Labour (IZA) is a small (in terms of staff) non-governmental research institute in Bonn. Today, it is one of the leading centres of research into labour economics. The IZA was founded comparatively recently, in 1998. Since then, it has built a huge international research network, approximately 1200 researchers from 45 countries. Researchers affiliated with IZA include such Nobel Prize winners in economics as George Akerlof, Gary Becker, Dale Mortensen, Christopher Pissarides, Edmund Phelps, and James Heckman. Over the last years, about 7000 papers have been published and many conferences have been organized as part of this network.

— What was the idea of this conference?

— The main idea was to present new labour market studies which have been carried out in various different countries, but focusing on a region which includes Russia, other CIS countries (including Central Asia), and China. These countries may seem to be very different, but they have a lot in common. Here in Russia, we tend to focus mainly on our country and rarely take a thorough look at other countries. We lack the resources and data to do that. This workshop allowed us to go beyond the typical narrow country framework. On the other hand, such a workshop is not only a place to share results, but also a a forum for the discussion of new ideas and methodological approaches to research.

The best papers from the workshop will be published both in Russian and in English. Some authors have already been asked to submit their papers to the new IZA Journal of Labor and Development.

Hartmut Lehmann
Hartmut Lehmann
— Could you please tell us more about Professor Hartmut Lehmann’s role in organizing this workshop?

— Professor Lehmann is an old colleague and friend. He is one of the leading experts in transitional economies and the author of dozens of publications about Russia, China, East European and CIS countries. Incidentally, Professor Lehmann was one of the people who inspired the creation of our Centre for Labour Market Studies. In addition, he is also Program Director of the IZA research group ‘Labor Markets in Emerging and Transition Countries’. He was the initiator of this workshop and chaired the programme committee.

— Apart from Professor Lehmann, which other renowned researchers participated in the workshop?

— Firstly, I would like to mention Professor John Earle from George Mason University in Washington. Professor Earl is a very well respected academic and author of many papers. Many young researchers in Central and Eastern Europe were his students and owe their professional success to him. He is another of the key figures in the formation of our Centre.

There were also many other interesting researchers, such as Zhong Zhao, one of the leading labour economists from China. Anzelika Zaiceva from the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia and the IZA is a renowned expert in migration economics. We are happy that she is interested in the Russian labour market and are looking forward to cooperating with her in the near future. I would also like to mention Professor John Bennett from Great Britain, an expert in informal microeconomics. In addition to these guests, there were a lot of young people from various countries, including Russia, who presented some very interesting papers.

— Which of the papers seemed the most interesting to you?

— In general, the level of presentations was high, and the topics were wide-ranging. However, I’d like to highlight the presentation by John Earle, which was brilliant both in form and content. It was about how special governmental financial aid programmes for small business influence the creation of new jobs in the USA, but contained conclusions which could equally be applied to a transitional economy. A joint paper by Hartmut Lehmann, Anzelika Zaiceva and John Bennett on ‘Risk Attitudes and Informality, with an Application to Russia’ was also very interesting. Their work was into the intersection of labour economics and behavioural economics, and it used unique data from a special survey on Russia. Two papers were dedicated to the problems of birth rates, but concerned the overlap between labour economics and demography (Fabian Slonimczyk and Anna Yurko from the HSE, as well as Maria Giulia Silvagni from the University of Bologna). I’d also like to mention two more papers related to the idea of minimum wage. Its influence on regional labour markets was analyzed by Alexander Muraviev (St. Petersburg University GSOM and IZA) and Alexey Oshchepkov (HSE), and its influence on inequality was studied by Anna Lukyanova (HSE). Problems related to minimal wages have, until now, been very poorly researched in Russia, despite the huge political importance of these issues. I’ve listed only some of the presentations, since unfortunately I cannot mention each and every one that deserves attention.

I would like to particularly mention the special lecture ‘New Social Policy Challenges in Russia’. This was delivered by Michal Rutkowski, Country Director for Russian Federation at World Bank, who gave a very energetic presentation,which caused a great deal of discussion.

— How would you evaluate the results of the workshop?

— It seems to have been very successful. All participants were satisfied both with the quality of papers and the level of organization. I hope this is not the last workshop of this kind.

— Does this mean that we should expect more joint projects in the near future?

We are already implementing joint projects with some of the conference participants and some of the projects have already been realized. For example, we are currrently finishing a joint project with the IZA on ‘Political Economy of Labour Market Reforms’. One of the conference participants, Maria Giulia Silvagni, used to work as an intern at our Centre. Alexander Muraviev from St. Petersburg regularly participates in the HSE summer schools on labour economics organized annually by Sergey Roshchin. We are discussing with Anzelika Zaiceva how we can participate more closely together. To cut a long story short, we have plenty of plans, and they are very diverse.

Petr Radzikhovsky, specially for HSE News Service

Photos by Nikita Benzoruk

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