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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Gender wage discrimination
Does the extent of competition in labor markets explain why female workers are paid less than men?

There are pronounced and persistent wage differences between men and women in all parts of the world. A significant element of these wage disparities can be attributed to differences in worker and workplace characteristics, which are likely to mirror differences in worker productivity. However, a large part of these differences remains unexplained, and it is common to attribute them to discrimination by the employer that is rooted in prejudice against female workers. Yet recent empirical evidence suggests that, to a large extent, the gaps reflect “monopsonistic” wage discrimination—that is, employers exploiting their wage-setting power over women—rather than any sort of prejudice.

  • Sexual harassment in the workplace Updated

    The #MeToo movement brought heightened attention to sexual harassment and a search for new approaches to combat it

    Joni Hersch , July 2024
    Workplace sexual harassment is internationally condemned as sex discrimination and a violation of human rights, and more than 140 countries have enacted legislation prohibiting it. Sexual harassment increases absenteeism and turnover and lowers productivity and job satisfaction. Yet, it remains pervasive and underreported, as the #MeToo movement starkly revealed in October 2017. Standard workplace policies such as training and a complaints process have proven inadequate. Initiatives such as bans on confidential settlements and measures that support market incentives for deterrence may offer the most promise.
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  • Unemployment benefits and unemployment Updated

    The challenge of unemployment benefits is to protect workers while minimizing undesirable side effects

    All developed economies have unemployment benefit programs to protect workers against major income losses during spells of unemployment. By enabling unemployed workers to meet basic consumption needs, the programs protect workers from having to sell their assets or accept jobs below their qualifications. The programs also help stabilize the economy during recessions. If benefits are too generous, however, the programs can lengthen unemployment and raise the unemployment rate. The policy challenge is to protect workers while minimizing undesirable side effects.
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  • The effects of public sector employment on the economy Updated

    The size and wage level of the public sector affect overall employment volatility and the economy

    Public sector jobs are established by governments to directly provide goods and services. Governments may also choose to regulate the size of the public sector in order to stabilize targeted national employment levels. However, economic research suggests that these effects are uncertain and critically depend on how public wages are determined. Rigid public sector wages lead to perverse effects on private employment, while flexible public wages lead to a stabilizing effect. Public employment also has important productivity and redistributive effects.
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  • Public or private job placement services — Are private ones more effective? Updated

    Outsourcing to the private sector can only be effective if the service quality can be contracted on

    Gesine Stephan , May 2024
    Expenditures on job placement and related services make up a substantial share of many countries’ gross domestic products. Contracting out to private providers is often proposed as a cost-efficient alternative to the state provision of placement services. However, the responsible state agency has to be able and willing to design and monitor sufficiently complete contracts to ensure that the private contractors deliver the desired service quality. None of the empirical evidence indicates that contracting-out is necessarily more effective or more cost-efficient than public employment services.
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  • Entrepreneurship for the poor in developing countries Updated

    Well-designed entrepreneurship programs show promise for improving earnings and livelihoods of poor workers

    Yoonyoung Cho , May 2024
    Can entrepreneurship programs be successful labor market policies for the poor? A large share of workers in developing countries are self-employed (mostly own-account workers without paid employees, often interchangeably used as micro entrepreneurs). Their share among all workers has not changed much over the past two decades in the developing world. Entrepreneurship programs provide access to finance (or assets) and advisory and networking services as well as business training with the aim of boosting workers’ earnings and reducing poverty. Programs vary in design, which can affect their impact on outcomes. Recent studies have identified some promising approaches that are yielding positive results, such as combining training and financial support.
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  • The labor market in Brazil, 2001–2022 Updated

    Brazil’s long-lasting recession has hurt the poor and has reversed inequality trends

    In the first decade of the 21st century, the Brazilian economy experienced an important expansion followed by a significant decline in inequality. The minimum wage increased rapidly, reducing inequality with no negative effects on employment or formality. This resulted from economic growth and greater supply of skilled labor. However, from 2014-2021, real wages were stagnant, and unemployment rates surged. Inequality rose again, although only marginally. Some positive signs emerged in 2022, although it is still too early to know whether they mark a return to past trends or a recovery from the pandemic.
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  • The importance of informal learning at work Updated

    On-the-job learning is more important for workers’ human capital development than formal training

    Andries De Grip , March 2024
    Although early human capital theory recognized the relevance of workers’ experience, its focus was on education and formal training. More recent studies show that much of the performance of newly hired workers is driven by learning by doing or learning from peers or supervisors in the workplace. Descriptive data show that workers learn a lot from the various tasks they perform on the job. Informal learning at work seems to be relevant for all age groups, although it is more meaningful for younger workers’ performance. Informal learning is far more important for workers’ human capital development than formal training courses.
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  • Compensating displaced workers Updated

    Job displacement is a serious earnings risk and the displaced are typically poorly insured

    Donald O. Parsons , February 2024
    Job displacement is a serious earnings risk to long-tenured workers, both through spells of unemployment and through reduced wages on subsequent jobs. Less developed countries often rely exclusively on government mandated employer-provided severance pay to protect displaced workers. Higher income countries usually rely on public unemployment insurance and mandated severance pay. Beyond these options, more administratively demanding plans have been proposed, including UI savings accounts and “actual loss” wage insurance, though real-world experience on either model is lacking.
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  • Trans people, well-being, and labor market outcomes Updated

    Transitioning across gender is related to greater life and job satisfaction but also affects acceptance in one’s society

    Nick Drydakis , January 2024
    Acceptance of one’s gender identity and congruence between one’s gender identity and outward appearance are associated with less adverse mental health symptoms, and greater life and job satisfaction. However, trans people are subject to human rights violations, hate crimes, and experience higher unemployment and poverty than the general population. Trans people often feel that they are citizens who are not allowed to be themselves and practice their authentic identity. Many biased treatments of trans people could be attenuated if legal protections and inclusive workplace practices were in place.
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  • Labor market institutions and policies in old and new EU members Updated

    After three recessions, a new emphasis on the importance of collective institutions and social dialogue is emerging

    Riccardo Rovelli , January 2024
    Old and new EU member states still adopt quite different labor market institutions and policies: convergence has been partial and limited. Nevertheless, a new agreement is spreading on the importance of well-developed, coordinated institutions, supported by social dialogue, in view of the increasing challenges posed by the macro economy and by the increasing fragmentation of labor markets.
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  • Multiple job-holding: Career pathway or dire straits? Updated

    Moonlighting responds to economic needs, but can generate new skills and careers

    Multiple job-holding, or “moonlighting”, is an important form of atypical employment in most economies. New forms of work, driven by digitalization, may enable its future growth. However, many misconceptions exist, including the belief that multiple job-holders are only low-skilled individuals who moonlight primarily for financial reasons, or that the practice increases during economic downturns. Recent literature highlights the significant links between moonlighting and job mobility. Multiple job-holding allows for the development of workers’ skills and spurs entrepreneurship.
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  • Rethinking the skills gap Updated

    Better understanding of skills mismatch is essential to finding effective policy options

    Evidence suggests that productivity would be much higher and unemployment much lower if the supply of and demand for skills were better matched. As a result, skills mismatch between workers (supply) and jobs (demand) commands the ongoing attention of policymakers in many countries. Policies intended to address the persistence of skills mismatch focus on the supply side of the issue by emphasizing worker education and training. However, the role of the demand side, that is, employers’ rigid skill requirements, garners comparatively little policy attention.
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