Economics of Work and Employment (PEC4219.01)

Lopamudra Banerjee

The seminar centers on fundamental questions concerning labor: Why do people work? What is the relationship between ‘work’ and ‘employment’? And how do the concerns of ‘nonwage work’—specifically care work within households—intersect with wage work within the labor market? These inquiries motivate our exploration. We will delve into established theories in labor economics and macroeconomics, enriching our discussions by drawing from political economy and social reproduction theory. Furthermore, we will investigate the evolution of ‘work’ and the dynamics of the ’employment relationship’ over recent decades, analyzing transformations in both the Global North and the Global South, especially in the post-COVID era. Throughout, we will examine how work influences individuals’ material well-being, shapes their living standards, and contributes to a region’s overall economic output and average income.

This advanced-level research seminar is tailored for third and fourth-year college students, with second-year students eligible with instructor approval. We will explore key concepts verbally and through written exposition, utilizing mathematical formulations for formal expression. The course will involve close analysis of macroeconomic datasets, requiring prior knowledge of data analysis and familiarity with spreadsheet analysis. Some understanding of statistical theory/applications and economics is also beneficial.

The course entails two requirements: [a] Active class participation, grounded in thorough engagement with assigned materials, and [b] a research project with related homework assignments. Attendance is mandatory, and students are expected to carefully prepare by engaging with assigned readings and actively participating in class discussions. Additionally, students will conduct research based on empirical evidence on a specific issue related to work, employment, and wage income.

Learning Outcomes:
The course aims to:
[1] Foster a critical understanding of foundational economic theories of employment and unemployment, equipping students with applied tools for their research.
[2] Introduce a critical analysis of wage and nonwage work from the perspective of political economy and social reproduction theory.
[3] Guide students in formulating thesis questions and providing empirical support for their arguments.
Students are encouraged to pursue active, self-directed investigation and bring a transdisciplinary approach to learning. Throughout, students will enhance their critical analytical thinking and advance their research, creation, and communication skills.

Delivery Method: Fully in-person
Prerequisites: At least one 2000-level course in economics. Prior knowledge of data analyses is desirable and some familiarity with spreadsheet analyses of data is expected. Some prior knowledge of statistical theory/applications will be advantageous. Also, approval of course instructor is required. Students should email the course instructor ( with an expression of interest, and explain [in few sentences] [a] why they are interested in this course, [b] if the course fit with their academic plan, and, if yes, then how, [c] if they fulfill the prerequisites for the course and what courses [that would satisfy the prerequisite criterion] have they taken before [stating the course name and level of prior courses in economics/political economy, SCT, mathematics etc.]. The emails should be received by May 15th 2024.
Course Level: 4000-level
Credits: 4
W 2:10PM - 5:50PM (Full-term)
Maximum Enrollment: 12
Course Frequency: Every 2-3 years

Categories: 4000 , All courses , Four Credit , Fully In-Person , Political Economy
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