Evidence-based policy making

IZA World of Labor is an online platform that provides policy analysts, journalists, academics and society generally with relevant and concise information on labor market issues. Based on the latest research, it provides current thinking on labor markets worldwide in a clear and accessible style. IZA World of Labor aims to support evidence-based policy making and increase awareness of labor market issues, including current concerns like the impact of Covid-19, and longer-term problems like inequality.

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featured article

The value of hiring through employee referrals in developed countries

Firms can benefit by hiring employee referred candidates; however, there are potential drawbacks that must be considered

Mitchell Hoffman

Companies frequently hire new employees based on referrals from existing employees, who often recommend friends or family members. There are numerous possible benefits from this, such as lower turnover, possibly higher productivity, lower recruiting costs, and beneficial commonalities related to shared employee values. On the other hand, hiring through employee referrals may disadvantage under-represented minorities, entail greater firm costs in the form of higher wages, lead to undesirable commonalities, and reflect nepotism. A growing body of research explores these considerations.

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  • Racial wage differentials in developed countries Updated

    The variation of racial wage gaps across and within groups requires differing policy solutions

    Simonetta Longhi, October 2020
    In many developed countries, racial and ethnic minorities are paid, on average, less than the native white majority. While racial wage differentials are partly the result of immigration, they also persist for racial minorities of second and further generations. Eliminating racial wage differentials and promoting equal opportunities among citizens with different racial backgrounds is an important social policy goal. Inequalities resulting from differences in opportunities lead to a waste of talent for those who cannot reach their potential and to a waste of resources if some people cannot contribute fully to society.
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  • What is the economic value of literacy and numeracy? Updated

    Basic skills in literacy and numeracy are essential for success in the labor market

    Even in OECD countries, where an increasing proportion of the workforce has a university degree, the value of basic skills in literacy and numeracy remains high. Indeed, in some countries the return for such skills, in the form of higher wages, is sufficiently large to suggest that they are in high demand and that there is a relative scarcity. Policymakers need robust evidence in order to devise interventions that genuinely improve basic skills, not just of new school leavers entering the market, but also of the existing workforce. This would lead to significant improvements in the population that achieves a minimum level of literacy and numeracy.
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  • Sports at the vanguard of labor market policy

    Lessons from sports can allow managers to develop better policies at “normal” workplaces

    Kerry L. Papps, October 2020
    Economic theory has many predictions regarding how workers should be paid and how workplaces should be organized. However, economists’ attempts to test these in the real world have been hampered by a lack of consistent information about workers’ productivity levels. Professional sports offer a potential solution, since the performance of individual sportspeople is easily observed and yet many of the same problems faced by managers in workplaces still apply. In many ways, sportspeople may be less atypical of the modern workforce than farm laborers, doctors, or other groups of workers that are often scrutinized by economists.
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  • Integrating refugees into labor markets Updated

    Economic integration of refugees into their host country is important and benefits both parties

    Pieter Bevelander, September 2020
    Refugee migration has increased considerably since the Second World War, and amounts to more than 50 million refugees. Only a minority of these refugees seek asylum, and even fewer resettle in developed countries. At the same time, politicians, the media, and the public are worried about a lack of economic integration. Refugees start at a lower employment and income level, but subsequently “catch up” to the level of family unification migrants. However, both refugees and family migrants do not “catch up” to the economic integration levels of labor migrants. A faster integration process would significantly benefit refugees and their new host countries.
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  • European asylum policy before and after the migration crisis

    The European migration crisis of 2015–2016 exposed weaknesses in the asylum system that have been only partly addressed

    Tim Hatton, September 2020
    The migration crisis of 2015–2016 threw the European asylum system into disarray. The arrival of more than two million unauthorized migrants stretched the system to its breaking point and created a public opinion backlash. The existing system is one in which migrants risk life and limb to gain (often unauthorized) entry to the EU in order to lodge claims for asylum, more than half of which are rejected. Reforms introduced during the crisis only partially address the system's glaring weaknesses. In particular, they shift the balance only slightly away from a regime of spontaneous asylum-seeking to one of refugee resettlement.
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  • Recruiting intensity Updated

    Recruiting intensity is critical for understanding fluctuations in the labor market

    R. Jason Faberman, July 2020
    When hiring new workers, employers use a wide variety of different recruiting methods in addition to posting a vacancy announcement, such as adjusting education, experience, or technical requirements, or offering higher wages. The intensity with which employers make use of these alternative methods can vary widely depending on a firm’s performance and with the business cycle. In fact, persistently low recruiting intensity partly helps to explain the sluggish pace of job growth in the US economy following the Great Recession, and the historically subpar wage growth during the subsequent expansion.
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  • Who benefits from firm-sponsored training? Updated

    Firm-sponsored training benefits both workers and firms through higher wages, increased productivity and innovation

    Benoit Dostie, July 2020
    Workers participating in firm-sponsored training receive higher wages as a result. But given that firms pay the majority of costs for training, shouldn’t they also benefit? Empirical evidence shows that this is in fact the case. Firm-sponsored training leads to higher productivity levels and increased innovation, both of which benefit the firm. Training can also be complementary to, and enhance, other types of firm investment, particularly in physical capital, such as information and communication technology (ICT), and in organizational capital, such as the implementation of high-performance workplace practices.
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  • Bonuses and performance evaluations

    Individual bonuses do not always raise performance; it depends on the characteristics of the job

    Dirk Sliwka, July 2020
    Economists have for a long time argued that performance-based bonuses raise performance. Indeed, many firms use bonuses tied to individual performance to motivate their employees. However, there has been heated debate among human resources professionals recently, and some firms have moved away from individual performance bonuses toward fixed wages only or collective performance incentive schemes such as profit-sharing or team incentives. The appropriate approach depends on each company's unique situation, and managers need to realize that individual bonus plans are not a panacea to motivate employees.
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