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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Can government policies reverse undesirable declines in fertility? 

Government policies can have a modest effect on raising fertility—but broader social changes lowering fertility are stronger

Elizabeth Brainerd

Since 1989 fertility and family formation have declined sharply in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Fertility rates are converging on—and sometimes falling below—rates in Western Europe, most of which are below replacement levels. Concerned about a shrinking and aging population and strains on pension systems, governments are using incentives to encourage people to have more children. These policies seem only modestly effective in countering the impacts of widespread social changes, including new work opportunities for women and stronger incentives to invest in education.

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  • Temporary migration entails benefits, but also costs, for sending and receiving countries

    There are important trade-offs between temporary and permanent migration

    Many migrants do not stay in their host countries permanently. On average, 15% of migrants leave their host country in a given year, many of whom will return to their home countries. Temporary migration benefits sending countries through remittances, investment, and skills accumulation. Receiving countries benefit via increases in their prime-working age populations while facing fewer social security obligations. These fiscal benefits must be balanced against lower incentives to integrate and invest in host country specific skills for temporary migrants.
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  • Incentivizing sleep?

    Insufficient sleep affects employment and productivity

    Joan Costa-Font , November 2022
    Spending time sleeping not only improves individuals’ well-being, but it can influence employment outcomes and productivity. Sleep can be disrupted by company schedules and deadlines, extended working times, and several individual and household decisions. Labor market regulation and corporate strategies should factor in the immediate effect of insufficient sleep on employee fatigue and cognitive performance, and the associated effects on employment disruption and productivity loss. Sleep can be influenced by “sleep friendly” employment regulations, technology nudges, monetary incentives, and subsidies for sleeping.
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  • Job search requirements for older unemployed workers Updated

    Search requirements for the older unemployed affect their re-employment rates and their flows into states of inactivity

    Hans Bloemen , November 2022
    Many OECD countries have, or have had, a policy that exempts older unemployed people from the requirement to search for a job. An aging population and low participation by older workers in the labor market increasingly put public finances under strain, and spur calls for policy measures that activate labor force participation by older workers. Introducing job search requirements for older unemployed workers aims to increase their re-employment rates. Abolishing the exemption from job search requirements for the older unemployed has been shown to initiate higher outflow rates from unemployment for them.
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  • Firm age and job creation in the US

    New businesses are essential to keep unemployment low, but start-ups need loans in order to create jobs

    Henry R. Hyatt , November 2022
    Entrepreneurship is essential for a healthy labor market. Recent evidence shows that young businesses (at most ten years old) have, on average, accounted for all of US employment growth over the past few decades. New businesses are especially important for youth employment. However, these businesses tend to borrow a lot, and the credit constraints they face limit their ability to create jobs. Historically, much of the discussion regarding the economic importance of entrepreneurship has focused on small businesses. Empirical evidence increasingly suggests that, among small businesses, those that are young create the most jobs.
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  • The labor market in Canada, 2000–2021 Updated

    Covid-19 ended 20 years of stability and good labor market performance, aided in part by a strong resource boom

    W. Craig Riddell , November 2022
    From 2000 to 2019, Canada's economy and labor market performed well. Important in this success was a strong resource boom from the late 1990s to 2014. After the boom the economy and labor market adjusted relatively smoothly, with labor and other resources exiting resource-rich regions and moving elsewhere. Strong growth in major export markets (Asia and the US) aided the adjustment. The Covid-19 downturn resulted in an unprecedented decline in employment, and a steep rise in unemployment and non-participation. Despite the severity of the Covid-19 shock, by December 2021 most key measures of labor market activity had returned to pre-pandemic levels.
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  • The labor market consequences of impatience Updated

    Some people would be happier if they were required to stay in school longer or search harder for a job while unemployed

    Standard economic theory suggests that individuals know best how to make themselves happy. Thus, policies designed to encourage more forward-looking behaviors will only reduce people's happiness. Recently, however, economists have explored the role of impatience, especially difficulties with delaying gratification, in several important economic choices. There is strong evidence that some people have trouble following through on investments that best serve their long-term interests. These findings open the door to policies encouraging or requiring more patient behaviors, which would allow people to enjoy the eventual payoff from higher initial investment.
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  • Gender differences in risk attitudes Updated

    Belief in the existence of gender differences in risk attitudes is stronger than the evidence supporting them

    Antonio Filippin , October 2022
    Many experimental studies and surveys have shown that women consistently display more risk-averse behavior than men when confronted with decisions involving risk. These differences in risk preferences, when combined with gender differences in other behavioral traits, such as fondness for competition, have been used to explain important phenomena in labor and financial markets. Recent evidence has challenged this consensus, however, finding gender differences in risk attitudes to be smaller than previously thought and showing greater variation of results depending on the method used to measure risk aversion.
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  • Income-contingent loans in higher education financing Updated

    Internationally, there has been a student financing revolution toward income-contingent loans

    Around ten countries currently use a variant of a national income-contingent loans (ICL) scheme for higher education tuition. Increased international interest in ICL validates an examination of its costs and benefits relative to the traditional financing system, time-based repayment loans (TBRLs). TBRLs exhibit poor economic characteristics for borrowers: namely high repayment burdens (loan repayments as a proportion of income) for the disadvantaged and default. The latter both damages credit reputations and can be associated with high taxpayer subsidies through continuing unpaid debts. ICLs avoid these problems as repayment burdens are capped by design, eliminating default.
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