IZA World of Labor

Evidence-based policy making

IZA World of Labor provides policymakers and society with relevant and succinct information based on sound empirical evidence to help in formulating good policies and best practices. It provides expert know-how in an innovative structure, and a clear and accessible style.

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Fixed-term contracts

Are fixed-term contracts a stepping stone to a permanent job or a dead end?

Fixed-term contracts have become a major form of employment in Europe. Available evidence about whether temporary jobs are a stepping stone to a permanent employment or are a dead end is mixed. The usefulness of these jobs depends on the institutional and economic environment. Fixed-term contracts can be a pathway from unemployment to employment, but their potential as a stepping stone to permanent employment is undercut if there is a strong degree of segmentation in labor markets. If that is the case, the labor flexibility motive of employers ends up dominating the screening function in offering a fixed-term contract.
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  • Gross domestic product: Are other measures needed?

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

    Barbara M. Fraumeni, June 2017
    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. It does not measure happiness, so residents can be dissatisfied even when GDP is rising. GDP does not consider environmental factors or reflect what individuals do outside paid employment. It might increase in times of military conflicts and after natural disasters or terrorist acts, as the loss of property is not counted. Hence, complementary measures may help to show a more comprehensive picture of an economy.
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  • Do trade unions in Central and Eastern Europe make a difference?

    Low coverage and greater fragmentation can limit the benefits of trade unions

    Iga Magda, May 2017
    Countries with strong industrial relations institutions and well-established social dialogue often perform well in terms of economic growth and social cohesion. The weak and fragmented bargaining and low levels of union coverage in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) raise concerns about these countries’ potential to maintain competitiveness, tackle demographic and macroeconomic challenges, and catch up with Western European economic and social standards. There is evidence that unions in CEE continue to protect their members and generate wage premiums, despite their institutional weaknesses.
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  • Multitasking at work: Do firms get what they pay for?

    Rewarding only one dimension of performance may result in employees ignoring other dimensions

    Ann P. Bartel, May 2017
    To align employees’ interests with the firm’s goals, employers often use performance-based pay, but designing such a compensation plan is challenging because performance is typically multifaceted. For example, a sales employee should be incentivized to sell the company’s product, but a focus on current sales without rewarding the salespeople according to the quality of the product and/or customer service may result in fewer future sales. To solve this problem, firms often increase the number of metrics by which they evaluate their employees, but complex compensation plans may be difficult for employees to understand.
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  • Motherhood wage penalty may affect pronatalist policies

    If ignored, the motherhood wage penalty may threaten the effectiveness of policies targeting fertility

    Olena Y. Nizalova, May 2017
    The motherhood wage penalty denotes the difference in wages between mothers and women without children that is not explained by differences in human capital characteristics and labor market experience. As part of the gender pay gap, the motherhood wage penalty can represent a significant cost to being female and having children. If ignored, it may undermine policy initiatives aiming to increase fertility rates in post-socialist countries, such as the costly “baby bonus,” which is a government payment to new parents to assist with the costs of childrearing.
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