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Department of Economics

Labour Economics

Course Code:
Course Not Running 2015/2016
Unit value:
Year of study:
Year 3
Taught in:
Full Year

In the standard textbook neoclassical economic models, labour enters as one of the inputs of production, and treated very much alike other commodities. This assumption, however, has been challenged by economists from other theoretical paradigms who conceptualise labour and labour markets differently. These contrasting conceptual frameworks and methodologies have significant implications to the way labour market phenomena are understood and analysed empirically, and to the debates around policies on labour today.

This course, therefore, starts by taking up the standard employment-wage determination under the neoclassical set up in detail. Then it takes the discussion beyond the neoclassical models to engage with other competing paradigms of labour. In addition to this theoretical engagement with various schools of labour economic thoughts, the course also goes on to discuss some specific issues related to the functioning of contemporary labour markets, such as formal and informal institutions, trade unionism and gender discrimination. The course also equips students with methodology and framework to engage in policy debates on labour market issues.  

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

On successful completion of the course, a student should be able to demonstrate the ability to:

  • explain how theories are applied to labour market phenomena, such as labour supply and participation, labour demand, and wage determination
  • demonstrate how labour economic theories inform empirical analysis and evaluate alternative theories empirically
  • use theories to evaluate labour market policies.

Method of assessment

Assessment weighting: Exam 80% / Coursework 20%. Resubmission of coursework regulations do not apply to this course.

Suggested reading

Background Readings
  • Borjas, G. J. (latest edition) Labor Economics, McGraw-Hill.
  • Ashenfelter, O. and R. Layard (1986) Handbook of Labor Economics, Amsterdam: North Holland, vols. 1-2;
  • Ashenfelter, O. and D. Card (1999/ 2010), Handbook of Labor Economics, Amsterdam: North Holland, vols. 3A, B, and C; and vols. 4A and B.
  • Champlin, D. P. and J. T. Knoedler (2004) The Institutionalist Tradition in Labor Economics, New York and London: M.E. Sharpe.
  • Layard, R., S. Nickell, and R. Jackman (2005) Unemployment: Macroeconomic Performance and the Labour Market, Second Edition, Oxford U.P.
  • Braverman, H. (1974) Labor and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century, New York: Monthly Review Press.