Inequality and Labour Markets (Online)


Why are some people rich and some people poor? What determines how wide the gap is in different countries? What should governments do to deal with inequality? This course looks to answer these questions that have become part of recent political, economic and social debates.

Listen to Professor Ken Mayhew and Dr Craig Holmes talking about the course:

Labour market inequality, particularly the difference in earnings between the highest paid and lowest paid, has become an important topic across many countries. Many governments agree that the gap between the best-off and worst-off has grown too large, and that as well as being unjust, such outcomes are also detrimental to other social and economic outcomes. This course looks at what determines pay in developed countries, and why this differs so much between them. It examines the role human capital - a worker's education, capabilities and skills - have played in the past, and the role it is expected to play in the future. However, it then goes beyond a human capital approach and considers what role employers and institutions play, and how, if ever, government policy can reduce inequality when more education and training isn't enough.

The course has been developed by Dr Craig Holmes and Professor Ken Mayhew, both economists at Oxford University.

For information on how the courses work, please click here.

Programme details

The units are as follows:

  • Inequality across the OECD: concepts and measures
  • The consequences of inequality:  why should we care?
  • A simple model of the labour market and earnings outcomes
  • The race between the supply and demand of skills 1: globalisation
  • The race between the supply and demand of skills 2: technology
  • What explains very high pay at the top?
  • Over-education and inequality
  • Low pay
  • Labour market institutions 1: unions and minimum wages
  • Labour market institutions 2: shaping the labour supply


Credit Application Transfer Scheme (CATS) points 

To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £30 fee for each course you enrol on. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online. If you do not register when you enrol, you have up until the course start date to register and pay the £30 fee. 

See more information on CATS point

Coursework is an integral part of all online courses and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework, but only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education, you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee. 


Digital credentials

All students who pass their final assignment, whether registered for credit or not, will be eligible for a digital Certificate of Completion. Upon successful completion, you will receive a link to download a University of Oxford digital certificate. Information on how to access this digital certificate will be emailed to you after the end of the course. The certificate will show your name, the course title and the dates of the course you attended. You will be able to download your certificate or share it on social media if you choose to do so. 

Please note that assignments are not graded but are marked either pass or fail. 


Description Costs
Course Fee £385.00
Take this course for CATS points £30.00


Mr Gianni Anelli-Lopez

Gianni Anelli is a Chilean doctoral student at the Institute of Employment Research at the University of Warwick.  He has a background is in sociology, and work experience led him to specialize in labour market studies. His interest is studying changes in labour demand and supply due to the irruption of current drivers, such as technological advances and work automation. The current dynamism of the market makes it necessary to analyse whether the demand for skills (employers) is satisfied by the supply (job seekers). Suppose there are skill shortages in occupations or economic sectors. In that case, it is important to measure them to generate valuable information for updating educational plans in training and educational institutions.

Course aims

This course aims to encourage students to consider what drives inequality in labour markets, from the conventional explanations relating to technological change and globalisation, to institutional approaches which have become increasingly prominent. Students will explore how these relate to both international differences in inequality, and changes in inequality within a particular country. Students will evaluate the effectiveness of the various policies which have been implemented or could be implemented to deal with inequality. The course will particularly explore the role of education and skills policy in reducing inequality, and challenge students to consider whether these policies are likely to have positive results.

This course will enable participants to:

  • Understand the causes of inequality between and within countries
  • Participate in the key policy debates around reducing inequality
  • Become familiar with a variety of key techniques and concepts from economics
  • See how economic theories may be applied to a real-world issue, and understand how to evaluate them with data.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course students will be expected to understand:

  • Inequality within and across OECD countries
  • The theories behind the relationship between education and earnings
  • The rationale behind different policies aimed to reduce inequality
  • The role of institutions in determining wage dispersion

By the end of this course students will be expected to have gained the following skills:

  • The ability to apply simple tools of economic analysis, such as supply and demand, to real-world issues.
  • Basic statistics to understand key data series
  • Policy evaluation

Assessment methods

You will be set two pieces of work for the course. The first of 500 words is due halfway through your course. This does not count towards your final outcome but preparing for it, and the feedback you are given, will help you prepare for your assessed piece of work of 1,500 words due at the end of the course. The assessed work is marked pass or fail.

English Language Requirements

We do not insist that applicants hold an English language certification, but warn that they may be at a disadvantage if their language skills are not of a comparable level to those qualifications listed on our website. If you are confident in your proficiency, please feel free to enrol. For more information regarding English language requirements please follow this link:


Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an Enrolment form for short courses | Oxford University Department for Continuing Education

Level and demands

10 weeks, 100 study hours at FHEQ level 4

IT requirements

This course is delivered online; to participate you must to be familiar with using a computer for purposes such as sending email and searching the Internet. You will also need regular access to the Internet and a computer meeting our recommended minimum computer specification.