Introductory Labour Economics for Public Policy

Monday, 16th of August
Wednesday, 18th of August
Tuesday, 24th of August
Wednesday, 25th of August

All sessions will run from 9am until 12.30pm

Location: “St. Andrew’s on The Terrace”

Cost: $500 plus GST

If you registered for this course that was disrupted by the COVID lockdown, you will be contacted about new course dates as soon as Wellington returns to level 1.


Labour economics is extremely relatable to most people since it touches on some aspect of their own life experiences – even for those who have never formally been in the labour market. For similar reasons, almost any social or economic policy will have either a direct or indirect effect on workers, potential workers, employers, or all of the above. Hence, those involved in policy should understand how labour markets function, including those factors that influence decision-making by individuals or organisations. Without this understanding, it may be difficult for policy makers to fully assess the ramifications that their policies are likely to have on the economy or on society. Hence, the main objective of this course is to provide participants with a basic understanding of the theory underlying labour economics as well as an understanding of how this theory has been applied, and can continue to be applied, to public policy. This course provides an introduction to labour economics and will help participants understand the following:

• how labour markets function, how labour economics fits into the larger economics framework, and the important role these markets play in people’s lives;
• how labour economics fits into policy making, how it can shape policy, and the latest policy debates pertaining to labour economics;
• how different policies may affect individuals’ decision making and choices; and
• labour economics in the New Zealand context, including key data sets available for analysis and previous research done using these data.

Topics to be covered include, but are not limited to, supply and demand, minimum wages, labour market effects of taxes and subsidies, unemployment, the collective bargaining relationship, discrimination, inequality, human capital, automation, and the ‘gig’ economy.

Course Objectives

This course will provide participants with a better understanding of the following:

• An understanding of key concepts and terms used in labour economics
• Potential ways that policies may affect labour markets and labour market outcomes
• When a labour economics framework may be useful in developing or evaluating policy

Session outline and delivery

  • Labour Supply
    • Measuring the labour force and labour force participation
    • Unemployment
    • The labour supply curve
    • The labour supply of different groups
    • Policy impacts on labour supply (e.g., taxes and subsidies)
  • Labour Demand
    • The employment decision
    • The labour demand curve
    • Substitutes and complements
    • Policy impacts on labour demand
  • Labour Market Equilibrium & Wage Determination
    • Competitive markets
    • Non-competitive markets
    • Labour market dynamics
    • Defining labour markets
    • Labour mobility and job search
    • Policy impacts on labour markets (e.g., immigration, minimum wage laws)
  • Compensating Wage Differentials
    • Impact of job characteristics on wages
    • Benefits and nonpecuniary compensation
    • Revealed preferences and the value of a statistical life
    • Policy applications (e.g., regulating health and safety)
  • Human Capital
    • Impact of worker characteristics on wages
    • Education and training
    • Policy impacts (e.g., training programs, subsidised student loans)
  • Labour Market Contracts and Work Incentives
    • Compensation packages and pay for performance
    • Role of unions
    • Non-compete clauses and spin-offs
    • The “gig” economy
    • Policy applications (e.g., contract enforcement, goals gone wild)
  • Research and data for NZ labour markets

Target Audience and assumed background

This course will be most helpful to policy analysts and policy advisors who would like to have a better understanding of how policy might impact labour markets and labour market outcomes. The course will also be useful for those who have had some economics training but have not thought about labour economics or simply would like a refresher on some of the basics.

Course Costs

This course is provided by the Government Economics Network (GEN) at a cost of $500 plus GST per person.