Three Questions to LH Alumna Mirjam Strupler Leiser

  1. What was your most recently published paper about?

My most recently published paper was 'Empirical Evidence on the Effectiveness of Social Public Procurement Policy: The Case of the Swiss Apprenticeship Training System' co-authored with Prof. Dr. Stefan C. Wolter and published in LABOUR. In this paper, we investigate the effectiveness of a social public procurement policy in Switzerland. This policy allows public purchaser to give firms that train apprentices a preferential treatment. Using information from a representative and large firm survey, our analysis shows that the policy increases the number of training firms, and does not affect training quality negatively. However, the effect is limited in size, as only small firms and firms operating in very particular industries where public contracts play an important role, are affected positively.  We conclude that although such a policy might be beneficial in times of a shortage of training places, the same policy — due to the very specific firms and sectors that can be influenced by this policy — can lead to distortions in the training market in times of a shortage of trainees. Therefore, a cautious and flexible approach to using such a policy instrument is recommended.


  1. What was your dissertation subject?

My thesis consists of four empirical essays on the economics of education. The first two essays focus on firm behavior in vocational education and training. The first essay analyzes the effect of the German labor market reform on the training behavior of German firms using Swiss firms as a counterfactual. The empirical analyses demonstrate how German firms cope with the increased labor market flexibility engendered by the labor market reforms. The results show that German firms, realizing that post-training benefits decrease in a more flexible labor market, managed to reduce their up-front investments in general skills. Contrary to widespread concerns training quality did not decrease. The second essay assesses the effectiveness of social public procurement policy in the Swiss apprenticeship training system. Using a difference-in-differences approach I cannot identify a significant effect of the policy on the number of training firms. The third paper analyzes the effects of the labor market environment on the costs to fill a vacancy. Training is also a recruitment device for firms, and thus, hiring costs are important opportunity costs of training. Therefore, hiring costs also affect a firm’s training decision in dual apprenticeship systems. The analyses provide new empirical evidence on the magnitude of a firm’s costs to fill a vacancy in Switzerland and how these costs are associated with labor market tightness. The fourth essay examines the introduction of an aptitude test (“numerus clausus”) in Swiss medical schools and analyzes whether the implementation of the test reduces university dropout. The results show that although the aptitude test rejected or deterred some applicants with a high probability of withdrawing, the reduction in dropout rates in medical sciences is also a result of adapted standards in Medical Schools. Therefore, it is crucial to account for endogeneity of dropout rates when assessing the effect of admissions processes on university dropout rates.


  1. To what extent can you use skills and knowledge that you acquired during your doctorate at your current job?

In my daily work I benefit from my skills in data analysis that I acquired in various PhD courses. During my doctorate, I could also sharpen my analytical thinking, which is very helpful for my current projects. Moreover, I had the opportunity to present my research to different audiences, from academic conferences with a focus on scholarly issues, to local events with professionals where the focus was on practical implications of my research findings. Thus, I learned about the importance of knowing your audience when presenting my work.