Finland’s success in PISA ― a worldwide study by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) of 15-year-old students’ aptitudes in mathematics, science, and reading ― was a surprise to Finns. In 2006, it was the best performing country. Even though the results have declined, Finland still ranks among the top countries.
Most of the discussion about the future of work focuses on how many jobs robots will take from humans. But this is just a (small) part of the change to come. As we explained in our previous blog, The changes that digital technology is introducing in the price of capital versus labor, the costs of transacting, the economies of scale, and the speed of innovation bring significant effects in three dimensions: the quantity, the quality, and the distribution of jobs. Let’s see them in detail.
In New York on September 25, 2015, an extraordinary event took place: 200 developed and developing countries agreed on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The development of sustainable infrastructure is at the core of the SDGs. Unfortunately, to procure such infrastructure, a constant issue is inadequate financing.
Recently, there has been an increased emphasis on crowding in private sector financing to alleviate these deficiencies. To do so, infrastructure governance and decision-making processes need to improve. If we fix the governance gap and help governments make choices that are transparent, clear and standardized, projects will be better chosen and designed; funding mechanisms (either user fees or government payments) will be more credible; private investors will feel more secure; and investment will follow. To begin to address these points, it is important to understand what the key challenges for infrastructure governance are.
The PPP Knowledge Lab was launched a year ago with the goal of making resources on public-private partnerships (PPPs) more accessible to the PPP community and filling a gap in knowledge around infrastructure and PPPs. Emboldened with this goal, the world’s top multilateral development agencies came together to create a central platform of comprehensive information on PPPs. Resources on the PPP Knowledge Lab have grown tremendously since its launch.
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
Protecting Journalism Sources in the Digital Age
While the rapidly emerging digital environment offers great opportunities for journalists to investigate and report information in the public interest, it also poses particular challenges regarding the privacy and safety of journalistic sources. These challenges include: mass surveillance as well as targeted surveillance, data retention, expanded and broad antiterrorism measures, and national security laws and over-reach in the application of these. All these can undermine the confidentiality protection of those who collaborate with journalists, and who are essential for revealing sensitive information in the public interest but who could expose themselves to serious risks and pressures. The effect is also to chill whistleblowing and thereby undermine public access to information and the democratic role of the media. In turn, this jeopardizes the sustainability of quality journalism.
Everything We Knew About Sweatshops Was Wrong
New York Times
In the 1990s, Americans learned more about the appalling conditions at the factories where our sneakers and T-shirts were made, and opposition to sweatshops surged. But some economists pushed back. For them, the wages and conditions in sweatshops might be appalling, but they are an improvement on people’s less visible rural poverty. As the economist Joan Robinson said, “The misery of being exploited by capitalists is nothing compared to the misery of not being exploited at all.” Textbook economics offers two reasons factory jobs can be “an escalator out of poverty.” First, a booming industrial sector should raise wages over time. Second, boom or not, factory jobs might be better than the alternatives: Unlike agriculture or informal market selling, these factories pay a steady wage, and if workers gained skills valued by the market, they might earn higher wages. Factories may also have incentives to pay more than agricultural or informal market work to persuade workers to stay and be productive. Expecting to prove the experts right, we went to Ethiopia and — working with the Innovations for Poverty Action and the Ethiopian Development Research Institute — performed the first randomized trial of industrial employment on workers. Little did we anticipate that everything we believed would turn out to be wrong.
The Public-Private Partnership Reference Guide has been downloaded more than 18,000 times since it was first launched in 2012. The Guide’s popularity reflects its value. The Guide offers:
- A solid overview of the core elements of public-private partnerships (PPPs); and
- A rich collection of references to the best-available PPP-related materials.
This version, however, offers several additions and improvements that add greater value to PPP practitioners:
- Version 3 is available online. Besides increasing accessibility, the online version allows new reference materials to be added as they become available. This makes the Guide a living document that is always up-to-date.
- A section on Stakeholder Communication and Engagement addresses an important element of PPP governance that is often overlooked.
- In response to growing demand, a new section, Environmental and Social Studies and Standards, has been included.
Going forward, we will publish monthly posts that highlight specific sections of the Guide, illustrating how seasoned practitioners and novices alike can use it to strengthen their knowledge of PPPs and apply it to real-world developmental challenges.
Technology is shaking up labor markets around the world. Increasingly intelligent machines are taking over routine jobs. Three-D printing is making many traditional, labor-intensive production processes obsolete. In total, almost half of all jobs may be at risk in the United States due to automation. Job losses are no longer just limited to blue collar occupations, but increasingly also affect high-paying white collar jobs such as in insurance, in the health sector or even in government bureaucracies. Is this the end of work as we know it? Not so fast, say some, who argue that technological progress and automation have not necessarily led to less demand for work on aggregate. An often cited example is the fact that the introduction of the automatic teller machine was accompanied by an expansion in retail banking jobs as banks opened more branches.
Education is one of the most powerful instruments for reducing poverty and inequality. It also lays the basis for sustained growth. Better schooling investments raise national income growth rates. In nearly all countries, though to varying degrees, educational progress has lagged for groups that are disadvantaged due to low income, gender, disability or ethnic and/or linguistic affiliation. However, there is an on-going education revolution occurring.
Results for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) 2015 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) exercise were released on December 6. The results are instructive, not only because of what they tell us about the science, mathematics, and reading knowledge and skills of 15-year-olds around the world, but also in terms of how they compare to the 2015 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) results, which were released a week ago (click here to read my blog on key takeaways from the TIMSS results).
The International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) released the results of its latest Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) yesterday, November 29. TIMSS 2015 assessed more than 600,000 students in grades four, eight, and the final year of secondary school across 60 education systems.