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.

View our content on Covid-19—Pandemics and the labor market 

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Working hours: Past, present, and future 

Work hours have been falling in developed countries—But where will they go in the future?

Peter Dolton

Working hours across the world are falling, but considerable variation remains. In some countries people work 70% more hours per year, on average, than in other countries. Much of this variation is due to differences in the prevalence of part-time work and patterns of female labor market participation. Looking ahead, the question of how reducing working hours will affect productivity is significant. In addition, how individuals divide up their leisure and work time and what the appropriate work−life balance is in an increasingly technological future are important concerns.

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  • Does employee ownership improve performance? Updated

    Employee ownership generally increases firm performance and worker outcomes

    Douglas Kruse , May 2022
    Employee ownership has attracted growing attention for its potential to improve economic outcomes for companies, workers, and the economy in general, and help reduce inequality. Over 100 studies across many countries indicate that employee ownership is generally linked to better productivity, pay, job stability, and firm survival—though the effects are dispersed and causation is difficult to firmly establish. Free-riding often appears to be overcome by worker co-monitoring and reciprocity. Financial risk is an important concern but is generally minimized by higher pay and job stability among employee owners.
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  • Measuring poverty within the household

    Standard poverty measures may drastically understate the problem; the collective household model can help

    A key element of anti-poverty policy is the accurate identification of poor individuals. However, measuring poverty at the individual level is difficult since consumption data are typically collected at the household level. Per capita measures based on household-level data ignore both inequality within the household and economies of scale in consumption. The collective household model offers an alternative and promising framework to estimate poverty at the individual level while accounting for both inequality within the household and economies of scale in consumption.
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  • How to attract international students? Updated

    Studying abroad benefits the students, the host country, and those remaining at home

    Arnaud Chevalier , May 2022
    In knowledge-based economies, attracting and retaining international students can help expand the skilled workforce. Empirical evidence suggests that open migration policies and labor markets, whereby students can remain in the host country post-study, as well as good quality higher education institutions are crucial for successfully attracting international students. Student migration can positively affect economic growth in both sending and receiving countries, even though migrants themselves reap most of the gains, mainly through higher earnings.
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  • Presenteeism at the workplace

    Working when sick is a widespread phenomenon with serious consequences for workers, firms, and society

    Claus Schnabel , May 2022
    Many workers admit that at times they show up for work even though they feel sick. This behavior, termed “presenteeism,” is puzzling since most workers do not incur financial losses when staying home sick. The various reasons behind presenteeism are person-related (e.g. individuals’ health or job attitude) or work-related (e.g. job demands and constraints on absence from work). Working when sick can have positive and negative consequences for workers’ performance and health, but it also affects co-workers’ well-being and firms’ productivity. There are various strategies as to how firms can address presenteeism.
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  • Gross domestic product: Are other measures needed? Updated

    GDP summarizes only one aspect of a country’s condition; other measures in addition to GDP would be valuable

    Barbara M. Fraumeni , April 2022
    Gross domestic product (GDP) is the key indicator of the health of an economy and can be easily compared across countries. But it has limitations. GDP tells what is going on today, but does not inform about sustainability of growth. The majority of time is spent in home production, yet the value of this time is not included in GDP. GDP does not measure happiness, so residents can be dissatisfied even when GDP is rising. In addition, GDP does not consider environmental factors, reflect what individuals do outside paid employment, or even measure the current or future potential human capital of a country. Hence, complementary measures may help to show a more comprehensive picture of an economy.
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  • Economic effects of natural disasters

    Natural disasters cause significant short-term disruptions, but longer-term economic impacts are more complex

    Tatyana Deryugina , April 2022
    Extreme weather events are increasing in frequency and intensity, threatening lives and livelihoods around the world. Understanding the short- and long-term effects of such events is necessary for crafting optimal policy. The short-term economic impacts of natural disasters can be severe, suggesting that policies that better insure against consumption losses during this time would be beneficial. Longer-term economic impacts are more complex and depend on the characteristics of the affected population and the affected area, changes in migration patterns, and public policy.
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  • Employment and wage effects of extending collective bargaining agreements Updated

    Sectoral collective contracts reduce inequality but may lead to job losses among workers with earnings close to the wage floors

    In many countries, the wage floors and working conditions set in collective contracts negotiated by a subset of employers and unions are subsequently extended to all employees in an industry. Those extensions ensure common working conditions within the industry, mitigate wage inequality, and reduce gender wage gaps. However, little is known about the so-called bite of collective contracts and whether they limit wage adjustments for all workers. Evidence suggests that collective contract benefits come at the cost of reduced employment levels, though typically only for workers earning close to the wage floors.
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  • Is there an optimal school starting age? Updated

    It depends: older children perform better on standardized tests, but evidence of older school starting ages on long-term outcomes is mixed

    There is a widely held belief that older students, by virtue of being more mature and readier to learn at school entry, may have better academic, employment, and earnings outcomes compared to their younger counterparts. There are understated, albeit important, costs to starting school later, however. Compulsory school-attendance laws may allow these same older pupils to drop out of high school earlier, which could adversely impact their employment; entering the workforce later also has implications for lifetime earnings and remittances to governments. Overall, research suggests that school-age entry policies can improve student achievement in the short term, but the long-term impacts are currently not well-understood.
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