I have just begun my tenure as Editor-in-Chief of IZA World of Labor (WoL), and I am thrilled to be part of this enterprise. I have devoted a 50-year career to labor economics, a field increasingly growing in importance and one in which we have accreted a large, new knowledge base over this last half-century. The importance of WoL lies in the fact that it provides an understandable and accessible way of exposing and exploring that knowledge base. Furthermore, by linking that base to policy, it enhances the possibility that what we know will be used to inform policy and—at least as important—will enhance the background knowledge of ordinary citizens, the latter being so important in determining which policies are instituted.
The “one-pagers”—the Elevator Pitch, the Pros and Cons, and the Author’s Main Message—that constitute the front of each article provide a unique format. They enable the reader to grasp, nearly at a glance, the essence of the discussion and evidence on the particular labor issue on which the article focuses. As such, they provide a succinct and easy means of understanding how a policy or more general labor-market issue should be approached.
I refer to “the reader,” but who are the readers at whom is this project is aimed? The majority of WoL entries should be readable by any individual with a secondary-school education. They are NOT designed as technical pieces aimed solely at an audience of specialists. Rather, they are meant to be used by:
- Policymakers and their staffs. Whenever a policy issue related to labor markets and labor issues arises, these people should immediately think of WoL and use it to access easily the essential information underlying the policy issue of concern, and advice on how to resolve the issue.
- Employers, union leaders and members. These agents are repeatedly called upon to react to policy proposals, often on short notice and quickly. WoL allows them to do this by presenting the best available thought on specific topics.
- Journalists spend much of their time finding “experts” to interview about the topic on which they are writing. This potentially costly search often leads them to rely on local experts or other “familiars”, who often are not the leading authorities on the topic. WoL greatly reduces the costs of searching for experts by summarizing expert opinion and providing ready access should the journalist wish to interview the expert.
- Intelligent laypeople who wish to learn about a specific labor policy. More citizens have realized that the cost of acquiring information on things that pique their interest has dropped. Accordingly, more are seeking information about these issues, out of general curiosity, out of a desire to be able to speak in an informed manner about an issue with their peers, and out of an interest in becoming better-informed voters. WoL provides the most readily accessible and understandable source of information on these issues of increasing interest.
My ambitions as the new Editor-in-Chief are to refine the remaining topics, to fill in gaps in the existing articles by inviting submissions from new authors on pre-selected topics, and to ensure that the four groups of readers understand how useful and important these articles are to them.
Daniel S. Hamermesh, Editor-in-Chief, IZA World of Labor and
Professor of Economics, Royal Holloway University of London