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Rafael Gomez

Rafael Gomez

Rafael Gomez is a Full Professor of Employment Relations in Human Resources at the University of Toronto. Many of you may know Rafael from his many publications. Others may have seen or heard him in the media as he has been a frequent guest on radio, TV and other media. Prof. Gomez received his Bachelors in Economics and Political Science from Glendon College, a Masters in Economics and a PhD in Industrial Relations from the University of Toronto. He went on to teach at the London School of Economics and has held Visiting appointments internationally at Moscow State University, University of Munich, University of Zurich, the Central Bank of Spain among others. He returned to the University of Toronto as Associate Professor in 2009 and as Full Professor in 2020. Prof. Gomez’s many research interests include small-scale entrepreneurship, worker preferences for workplace representation and the effect of demographic change on labour markets and economic institutions. He has co-authored and co-edited 4 books and over 70 articles and chapters in prestigious academic publications. In 2013 his book The Little Black Book for Managers was published by Wiley and became a UK business book bestseller. In 2015 his book Small Business and City: The Transformative Potential of Small-Scale Entrepreneurship was published by Rotman-UTP press and in 2019 his book The Everyday Leader was published by Bloomsbury Press.

Could you tell us a bit about two important articles you've written in your carreer?

This paper establishes that workplace engagement by employees – as captured by the presence of workplace committees – is positively associated with a number of positive outcomes such us better working conditions, firm performance and also workplace culture. The paper highlights how these committees – once thought of as weak or useless – do seem to provide benefits that are not associated with HRM or collective bargaining alone. That is, it seems that the presence of these committees at a workplace can enhance the performance of these other two institutions rather than the converse.

This was the first article to examine whether (and by how much) workers in Canada have been compensated for the ‘novel’ risks associated with COVID-19. We find a long-tailed distribution of COVID-19 risk scores across occupations, with most jobs at the lower end of the risk spectrum and relatively few occupations accounting for most of the high COVID-19 exposure risk. We find that workers who are already more vulnerable in the labour market (i.e. youth, women and immigrants) are also more likely to be employed in occupations with high COVID-19 exposure risk. When we look at the relationship between high-COVID exposure risks in occupation and wages, we find negative compensating differentials both at the mean (negative 8%) and across the earnings distribution. However, when workers are covered by a union, they enjoy a sizeable hazard pay premium (11.7% on average) as compared to their non-union counterparts. This shows the important role that labour market institutions can play in making the labour market more equitable and efficient at the same time.