Gueorgui Kambourov: Working for a Living

Professor Gueorgui Kambourov
Friday, January 16, 2015 - 10:16am
Carla DeMarco
Economics prof works on the working ways of labour markets

Even though Professor Gueorgui Kambourov studies ever changing labour markets and researches occupational trends for a living, his own career path was pretty much set from the get-go once he completed his undergraduate degree in Business Administration and Applied Economics in the mid ‘90s in Bulgaria.

“I came to Canada in 1997 to pursue my graduate studies in Economics at the University of Western Ontario in London, and I decided to stay,” says Kambourov. He remained in his adopted country and has always kept labour markets at the fore in his research.

While Kambourov hasn’t wavered from his economics destiny, his varied and various labour market research projects cover a lot of ground, looking at data from Europe and North America, and splinter off into many areas. One area of interest is related to how individuals choose their occupations and also how often they change occupations over their life cycle. Several interesting findings have emerged from the research, but Kambourov outlines two of the main points.

“Fifteen to 20% of people switch careers every year, and they switch their occupations now much more often than they did 40 years ago,” says Kambourov. “Also, there is evidence that a lot of human capital, which are the skills and experience required to do your job, is specific to the occupation you work in, so if you switch your occupation and the things you do, you will lose a lot of your human capital.”

In a different area of research, he considers an individual’s decision to work or not to work, and the labour supply decisions late in the life cycle. “One particular study looks at data across countries, in the U.S. and a number of European countries,” says Kambourov. “You see very different labour-supply behaviour after the age of 55 across these countries.”

Kambourov says that once he and his collaborators better understand the contributing factors to the patterns observed in the labour market, they can analyze their findings and determine if there is a scope for government policy and ways to improve the welfare of certain groups of the population. For example, in more recent work, Kambourov investigates the nature and effectiveness of university education and vocational training programs and explores how individuals make decisions what jobs to take or careers to pursue.

Where his past work has mainly focused on an individual’s occupational circumstances, Kambourov’s most recent project, which has received a boost from a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Insight Grant for over $131,000 over the next five years, takes into account labour supply in the context of households.

“This project looks at how the individual labour-supply decision also takes into account spousal labour supply,” says Kambourov. “In addition, the project also studies how various social assistance programs, specifically for the low income parts of distribution, affect the labour supply decisions of both spouses in the household.”

In a related project, with two U of T colleagues, Kambourov also examines the ability to keep a relationship going, either in the marriage or labour market.

“Some individuals have high relationship skills and some have low. You can see how this impacts the labour-market history and the marriage-market history, and how the two interact,” says Kambourov.  

Outside of the classroom Kambourov is busy with his own domestic pursuits in the form of a busy household. Married to an academic, who also happens to be an economist at the University of Guelph, and with two small children, shuttling them to and from various activities, he finds there is little time to indulge in some of his other passions, such as playing the guitar or the piano or travelling.

“Currently my hobby is to take [the kids] to hockey practice or ringette practice,” he says with a laugh. “But otherwise my life is mainly work and work,” says Kambourov, who, for someone that studies labour markets for a living, this rings particularly true.