Inequality and Labour Markets (Online)

Course details

From £280.00
10 CATS points

Mon 16 Sep 2019 - Fri 29 Nov 2019

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, and a link to our course demonstration site, 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

Recommended reading

To participate in this course you will need to have regular access to the Internet and you will need to buy the following book:

Salverda, W., Nolan, B. and Smeeding, T. (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Economic Inequality (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2011)


To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 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 £10 fee.

For more information on CATS point please click on the link below:

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.

Assignments are not graded but are marked either pass or fail.

All students who successfully complete this course, whether registered for credit or not, are eligible for a Certificate of Completion. Completion consists of submitting both course assignments and actively participating in the course forums. Certificates will be available, online, for those who qualify after the course finishes.

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.


Home/EU fee: £280.00
Non-EU fee: £300.00
Take this course for CATS points: £10.00

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

Assessment for this course is based on two written assignments - one short assignment due half way through the course and one longer assignment due at the end of the course. Students will have about two weeks to complete each assignment.

Assignments are not graded but are marked either pass or fail.


Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an application form.

Level and demands

10 weeks, 100 study hours at FHEQ level 4