The discussion around digitization is usually focused on how automation will affect jobs, disregarding how the changing world of work is also transforming the labor markets for the better. Although automation will change many jobs —up to 46% of jobs in developed countries according to a recent OECD report are highly automatable or likely to experience significant changes due to automation— it also holds several opportunities for employment intermediation. Job seekers can take new digital avenues to labor market inclusion, while employment services can also support workers with new ways of finding jobs. Three international experiences show how some countries are utilizing these opportunities.
Active labor market programs (ALMPs) like job matching, training, wage subsidies, start-up support, and public works for the unemployed have a less than stellar reputation. “Ineffective,” “a ”charade,” and “a waste of money” are common labels one hears when discussing ALMPs; and even when positive effects of ALMPs are acknowledged, the sizes of these effects are portrayed as too small to bother. At the same time, these programs are widely used, not only in high-income countries, but also in many developing countries—often with the hope that they solve many labor market problems, in particular, unemployment. Are policymakers wrong to pursue these programs?
It is widely accepted that investments in infrastructure can lead to direct and indirect jobs, and usually have spillover effects into other economic opportunities. For example, good transport systems and agro-logistics services help move freight from farms to locations where value can be added (like intermediate processing, packaging and sorting of agricultural produce) and ultimately to consumers. However, the anticipated benefits of these investments are not always fully realized, or sometimes they happen much later. How can investments in infrastructure have a multiplier effect in stimulating the economy and, eventually, facilitate job creation?
To maximize their impact, infrastructure projects should explicitly analyze and include complementary investments (e.g., industrial parks or processing facilities) and soft interventions (financial services, ICT, laws and regulations, etc.) needed to unlock the potential of new markets. As part of a broader effort to link investment in rural roads to economic opportunities, the Roads to Jobs study analyzed strategic value chains in the agriculture sector in Rajasthan, India, to better understand the challenges faced by farmers in accessing markets and provided recommendations to address constraints.
Creating more and better jobs is central to our work at the World Bank and a shared goal for virtually all countries —developed and developing alike. But oftentimes the policy debate turns to the cost and effectiveness of programs and projects in creating jobs.
As an example, I recently found myself in the middle of a discussion regarding a development project aimed at creating employment: one of the reviewers objected given that the cost per job created was too high. “More than $20,000 per job,” he said, comparing it to much lower numbers (between $500 and $3,000 per job) usually associated with active labor market programs such as training, job search assistance, wage subsidies, or public works.
But what is the rationale behind these numbers?
There is a well-known idiom saying that you can't compare apples and oranges. But this is precisely the challenge researchers often face when it comes to measuring the jobs impact of development projects. Having standardized impact evaluation tools and methods is a milestone for private sector-led job investments, and it allows international financial institutions, development practitioners, and governments to build on existing knowledge to develop solutions. And this is precisely one of the goals that Let's Work partnership, composed of 30 different institutions, is currently pursuing; to track the number of jobs generated from private sector-led interventions, the quality of those jobs, and how inclusive those jobs are in a standardized way, so apples are compared to apples and oranges to oranges.
If you are looking for a good reading list before the summer ends, we’ve compiled a selection of five recent papers and publications that touch on jobs and changing landscape of labor markets. These recommended readings have one thing in common: they analyze the challenges ahead through different lenses. How is the labor market recovering after the economic crisis? Can life-long learning become workers’ strategy for upskilling in a digital economy? Have countries improved in reducing gender gap at work? What policies can support job creation?
What can labor ministers in the developing world learn from the heated debate on minimum wages that Seattle’s dramatic reforms reignited? The answer may be confusion. After more than 6,000 scientific articles, the discussion on the costs and benefits of raising minimum wages is still one of those unresolved million-dollar questions: Many economists claim that it is a very effective way to guarantee decent jobs for workers and to reduce inequality, but other economists and policymakers seem convinced that it would do just the opposite. The recent experiment in Seattle, unfortunately, adds little clarity.
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania – one of the many cities in Africa that is expected to see sharp population increases – will need rapid job creation to keep pace with its swift population growth. The city’s new bus transit system – completed in 2015, with a $290 million credit from the International Development Association, the World Bank’s fund for the poorest countries – is now reducing transportation costs, easing traffic and promoting private sector development.
Photo: Hendri Lombard / World Bank
Africa’s working-age population is expected to grow by close to 70 percent, or by approximately 450 million people, between 2015 and 2035. Countries that are able to enact policies conducive to job creation are likely to reap significant benefits from this rapid population growth, according to the Africa Competitiveness Report 2017, co-produced by the World Bank Group, the African Development Bank, and the World Economic Forum. The report also warns that countries which fail to implement such policies are likely to suffer demographic vulnerabilities resulting from large numbers of unemployed and underemployed youth.
In 1950, the average working-age person in the world had almost three years of education, but in East Asia and Pacific (EAP), the average person had less than half that amount. Around this time, countries in the EAP region put themselves on a path that focused on growth driven by human capital. They made significant and steady investments in schooling to close the educational attainment gap with the rest of the world. While improving their school systems, they also put their human capital to work in labor markets. As a result, economic growth has been stellar: for four decades EAP has grown at roughly twice the pace of the global average. What is more, no slowdown is in sight for rising prosperity.
High economic growth and strong human capital accumulation are deeply intertwined. In a recent paper, Daron Acemoglu and David Autor explore the way skills and labor markets interact: Human capital is the central determinant of economic growth and is the main—and very likely the only—means to achieve shared growth when technology is changing quickly and raising the demand for skills. Skills promote productivity and growth, but if there are not enough skilled workers, growth soon chokes off. If, by contrast, skills are abundant and average skill-levels keep rising, technological change can drive productivity and growth without stoking inequality.
- boost prosperity
- Knowledge and Skills
- job market
- job creation
- Social Development
- Public Sector and Governance
- East Asia and Pacific
- Solomon Islands
- Papua New Guinea
- Micronesia, Federated States of
- Marshall Islands
- Lao People's Democratic Republic
- Korea, Republic of
Extreme poverty in the world has decreased considerably over the past three decades. In 1981, more than half of citizens in the developing world lived on less than $1.25 a day. This rate has dropped dramatically to 21% in 2010. Moreover, despite a 59% increase in the developing world’s population, there were significantly fewer people living on less than $1.25 a day in 2010 (1.2 billion) than there were three decades ago (1.9 billion). However, 1.2 billion people still live in extreme poverty—an extremely high figure, so the task ahead of us remains herculean.