Dr. Bianca Willert

Research Assistent at the Chair of Labor and Regional Economics, Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany

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My research interests include Labor Economics, Economic Development, Applied Econometrics, Economic History and International Trade.

Bianca Willert

Publications in Peer Reviewed Journals

  • Masters and Slaves: A Matching Model of Forced Labor with Heterogeneous Workers, CESifo Economic Studies, Volume 68, Issue 2, June 2022 (Link) Download Working Paper


At present, most countries have officially ratified the ILO Convention concerning forced or compulsory labor; however, serfdom is still present in the 21st century. This article addresses how oppressors recruit their victims and how certain mechanisms affect the extent of modern slavery. We use a matching model to analyze this recruitment process, incorporating involuntariness, which is the distinctive factor of employment relationships in modern slavery. In contrast to the standard matching model, not the workers exert effort to find jobs but the employers exert effort to find and hire slaves. Workers are heterogeneous regarding their vulnerability to enslavement, which is ex-ante unknown to the potential employers. The employer’s decision whether and to what extent to engage in forced labor depends on governmental labor protection and on the probability of detection. The model includes the possibility of bribery such that an employer can avoid sanctions if illicit behavior is detected. Solving the model yields that a high probability of detection and strict labor protection decrease slavery. We show that a high share of slaveholders increases the probability of enslavement and thus, the number of slaves. Surprisingly, strict labor protection increases the slaveholder’s effort, but also decreases their profit.

  • Modern Slavery, Corruption, and Hysteresis (with Michael Rauscher), European Journal of Political Economy, Volume 64, September 2020, 101917 (Link) Download Working Paper


We develop a model where firms profit from coercing workers into employment under conditions violating national law and international conventions and where corrupt public servants prosecuting violations of the rules are willing to turn cases down if bribed. Firms and public servants are heterogeneous. Firms benefit differently from the use of coerced labour whereas public servants have differing intrinsic motivations to behave honestly. Moreover, there is a socially determined warm-glow effect: honest public servants feel better if their colleagues are honest too. The determination of bribes is modelled via Nash bargaining between the firm and the corrupt civil servant. It is shown that multiple equilibria and hysteresis are possible. Depending on history, an economy may be trapped in a locally stable high-corruption, high-slavery equilibrium and major changes in government policies may be necessary to move the economy out of this equilibrium. Moreover, we show that trade bans that are effective in reducing slavery in the export industry tend to raise slavery in the remainder of the economy. It is possible that this leakage effect dominates the reduction of slavery in the export sector.

Working Papers

  • Willert, Bianca (2021): Modern Slavery – An Empirical Analysis, Thünen-Series of Applied Economic Theory, No. 167. Download


Contemporarily, modern slavery represents one of the most serious human rights violations. Although most countries officially abolished slavery and ratified the 1926 Slavery Convention of the League of Nations, slavery and slave-like practices still exist in various forms throughout the world. This paper addresses why coercive relationships persist today and investigates how political decision-making, institutional environment and coercive labor practices are interlinked. Moreover, we investigate the interplay between domestic anti-slavery laws and the extent of modern slavery. This paper identifies social and economic determinants of modern slavery using a novel dataset. The panel data contain information on 144 countries and territories from 2002 – 2016 for various types of exploitation of adults and children. We study determinants of modern slavery using cluster analysis and fit a fixed effects model to explain which factors drive exploitation. We find that different types of exploitation are driven by different factors. In addition, we show that slave-sending and slave-receiving countries differ significantly. We study transnational human trafficking and identify which social and economic factors determine this specialization. Moreover, we fit a model using Poisson regression to study why some countries detect victims, originating form more countries, than others do.

  • Forced Labor and Slavery (2021): A Demand-Sided Model, mimeo, University of Rostock

  • Willert, Bianca (2016) : How Intermediates Trade affects the Formation of Free Trade Agreements: A study analyzing Pairwise Trade Flows of 70 Countries, Thünen-Series of Applied Economic Theory, No. 147. Download


International trade and fragmentation of production lead to increased trade in intermediate goods. Increased multi-stage production promotes the formation of free-trade agreements (FTA). In this paper, the relationship between intermediates trade and FTAs is examined with a two-step Pseudo Poisson Maximum Likelihood model. The analysis of a comprehensive dataset of pairwise trade-flow data of 70 countries from the years 1995- 2011 shows a significant connection between trade in intermediates and the participation in free-trade agreements. A two-way relationship is identified: intermediates trade increases the probability to form a FTA and FTAs lead to an increase in intermediates trade.

Short CV (download full CV)

  • Since April 2022: Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany - Research Assistant

  • May 2016 - March 2022: University of Rostock, Germany - Research Assistant

  • January 2022: University of Rostock, Germany - Dr. rer. pol. in Economics

  • Oktober 2015: Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria - Master of Science in Economics

  • February 2013: JKU Linz, Austria- Bachelor of Science in Business and Economics with focus on Economics

Presentations at Conferences and Workshops

  • 23. Annual Conference of the European Trade Study Group (ETSG), University of Groningen, Groningen (Netherlands), September 2022

  • 33. European Annual Conference of the European Association of Labour Economists (EALE), September 2021 (Online)

  • 23. Annual Conference of the International Network for Economic Research (INFER) jointly with the Lisbon School of Economics and Management, September 2021 (Online)

  • Virtual 96. Annual Conference of the Western Economic Association International (WEAI), July 2021 (Online)

  • Virtual International Conference of the Western Economic Association International (WEAI), March 2021 (Online)

  • 22. Annual Conference of the International Network for Economic Research (INFER) jointly with the Centre d'Economie de Paris Nord (University Paris 13), December 2020 (Online)

  • 13. RGS Doctoral Conference in Economics, TU Dortmund University, Dortmund (Germany), February 2020

  • 18. Finanzwissenschaftliches Seminar, WZB Berlin (Germany), November 2019

  • 94. Annual Conference of the Western Economic Association International (WEAI), San Francisco (USA), July 2019

  • 21. Annual Conference of the International Network for Economic Research (INFER), Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels (Belgium), June 2019

  • 15. International Conference of the Western Economic Association International (WEAI), Keio University, Tokyo (Japan), March 2019

  • 19. Annual Conference of the European Trade Study Group (ETSG), European University Institute und University of Florenz, Florenz (Italy), September 2017

  • 44. Annual Conference of the European Association for Research in Industrial Economics (EARIE), University of Maastricht, Maastricht (Netherlands), August 2017

  • 5. PhD Workshop in Economics, Universidade do Minho, Braga (Portugal), June 2017

  • 19. Göttinger Workshop "Internationale Wirtschaftsbeziehungen", Georg-August-Universität, Göttingen (Germany), February 2017

Summer Schools & Meetings

  • 7. Lindau Meeting on Economic Sciences, August 2022

  • Paris School of Economics: DEVELOPMENT - Inequality, Social Interactions and Institutional Dynamics, June 2018

Popular Scientific Presentations

  • 72th Interregional Meeting of the "Frauenbrücke Ost-West" (Warnemünder Herbstforum), Rostock (Germany), October 2017

Teaching at the Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nuremberg


  • Macroeconomics (Summer Term 2022)

  • Labor Market Economics (Summer Term 2022)

Teaching at the University of Rostock


  • Econometrics (Summer Term 2016 - 2021)

  • Labour Market Economics (Winter Term 2016/17 - 2019/20)


  • Globalisation of the Economy (Winter Term 2016/17 - 2021/22)

  • Empirical Economic Research (Summer Term 2020)

  • Population Economics (Winter Term 2020/21 - 2021/22)