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April 16, 2015

Reflections on International Workers’ Day

In a couple of weeks’ time, on May 1st, we mark the first anniversary of our IZA World of Labor project. It is hard to believe that this time last year we were preparing for our launch in Washington, DC.

But of course, May 1st also marks International Workers’ Day. Originally, this was introduced by trade unionists as a way to celebrate labor and boost morale among workers. It later became a focal point for various demonstrators from socialist or anarchist groups, who used the international holiday as a symbol for the fight for workers’ rights and fair treatment.

So what does International Workers’ Day mean for the working public today? Unions have much less bargaining power than they have had historically. As a result, workers have become much more vulnerable to exploitation: wage inequality has risen drastically and workers face the insecurity of zero hours contracts. In addition, many big companies still do not pay a living wage, an issue which sparked protests in the US this week. May 1st offers an opportunity for both employers and employees to take stock.

This International Workers’ Day, we’ll be taking time to reflect on what the future holds for labor markets around the world. I will be giving insights on new developments in labor market trends, and the implications this could have on the future of work. We continue to witness media “hype” around immigration, gender equality, and wage levels, but we must evaluate and understand the evidence for previous policy initiatives before deciding how labor markets should be governed. We’ve seen that a lot can happen in a year, so it is important for decision makers to stay on top of emerging trends to ensure they can protect the rights of workers worldwide. Our evidence-based articles are the perfect place to start.

Since May 1st last year, we have published over 130 articles and are now listed on RePec, EconLit, and Google Scholar, greatly enhancing our discoverability. We have reached policymakers through international events in Lima, London, Paris, and Madrid, and our articles have supported coverage of labor market issues in The Washington Post, The Daily Mail, The Daily Telegraph, the BBC, Bild, and Die Welt. So, as May 1st approaches again, I thank our authors and editors for their contributions to this exciting project and look forward to another successful year working to bridge the worlds of evidence-based research and policy making.

© Klaus F. Zimmermann

Read more on top issues in labor market policy:
Gender equality
Wage levels  

Please note:
We recognize that IZA World of Labor articles may prompt discussion and possibly controversy. Opinion pieces, such as the one above, capture ideas and debates concisely, and anchor them with real-world examples. Opinions stated here do not necessarily reflect those of the IZA.