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Transition and Structural Change in the North American Labour Market

Article excerpt

Abbott, Michael G.; Beach, Charles M.; Chaykowski, Richard P. (eds.) Transition and structural change in the North American labour market. Kingston (Ontario), IRC Press/John Deutsch Institute for the Study of Economic Policy, 1997. 356 pp. Tables, figures. ISBN 0-88886-443-4.

This wide-ranging anthology touches on questions of job duration, the importance of skills, trends in part-time work, earnings differentials taxes, workers' compensation, immigration and unionization -- primarily in Canada. It is not, and does not claim to be, exhaustive. It explicitly addresses a variety of topics - "contemporary issues in social policy, institutional features of changing labour markets, structural issues, unemployment insurance and labour market dynamics, and aspects of labour market programs" and thus offers ideas and evidence but, inevitably, little depth on any one of them. But tucked away in this volume is a short article that deserves special attention.

In a chapter on "Research and policy reflections on the structural changes occurring in North American labour markets", Rebecca Blank points to some very important unanswered (but answerable) research questions. Firstly, why is the pattern of wage changes in the United States different for men and women? The (frequently noted) widening wage inequality is characteristic of male but not female employment, and the wages of unskilled women workers have hardly fallen, unlike those of unskilled males different patterns that cannot be explained away by differences in the mix of industries and occupations. …