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Labor and Social Protection

Labor market polarization in developing countries: challenges ahead

Indhira Santos's picture

There is increasing evidence that labor markets in developed countries are polarizing or hollowing out. On the one hand, the share of employment in high-skilled, high-paying occupations (managers, professionals and technicians) and low-skilled, low-paying occupations (elementary, service, and sales workers) is growing. On the other hand, the share of employment in middle-skilled, middle-paying occupations (clerks, plant and machine operators) is being squeezed. There is ample evidence of polarization in the United States (see Acemoglu and Autor, 2011; Autor and Dorn, 2013; and  Autor (2014) for a less technical discussion), and also in Western Europe (Goos, Manning, and Salomons, 2014). Harrigan, Reshef and Toubal (2016), more recently, document the same phenomenon in France, using firm-level data.

Harnessing Stitches for Riches in South Asia

Gladys Lopez-Acevedo's picture
Stitches to Riches? The Potential of Apparel Manufacturing in South Asia

In the coming years and decades, China is expected to slowly relinquish its lead position in the global apparel market, opening the door to other competitors. This is a huge opportunity for South Asia to create at least 1.5 million jobs that are “good for development” – of which half a million would be for women – according to a new World Bank report Stitches to Riches?  But those numbers could be much higher if the region moves quickly to tackle existing impediments and foster growth in apparel, which will also yield dividends for other light manufacturers (like footwear and toys).
 
How South Asia fits in the global apparel market
Currently, China holds by far the largest share of global apparel trade – at 41 percent, up from 25 percent in 2000, with about 10 million workers. But as China continues to develop, it is likely to move up the global value chain into higher-value goods (like electronics, and out of apparel) or switch production among sectors in response to rising wages. A 2013 survey of leading global buyers in the United States and European Union (EU) found that 72 percent of respondents planned to decrease their share of sourcing from China over the next five years (2012-2016).
 
Already, the top four apparel producers in South Asia – Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka – have made big investments in world apparel trade, now accounting for 12 percent of global apparel exports (see figure). In terms of apparel export value, Bangladesh leads the pack (at $22.8 billion), followed by India ($12.5 billion), Sri Lanka ($4.4 billion), and Pakistan ($4.2 billion).
 
China dominates global apparel trade
(Country share of global apparel exports)


Source: Stitches to Riches?
 
Why apparel jobs are “good for development”
When we think of jobs that are “good for development,” the main yardstick is whether they will help translate growth into long-lasting poverty reduction and broad-based economic opportunities. Apparel fits the bill for numerous reasons. 

In West Africa, education = jobs and jobs = development

Adaiah Lilenstein's picture
Job creation is a crucial aspect of development. And broad-based, high-quality education is crucial for inclusive development. Worryingly low levels of education quality and quantity show that there is a crisis of education in some West African countries. If inclusive growth is to pull people into the labor market and out of poverty, this must be addressed. Getting education right is a crucial first step on the road to creating better employment and reducing poverty. It must be considered a priority by national governments and donors alike.
 

Informality as a channel to cope with rigid labor markets

Ximena Del Carpio's picture
Rigid labor markets prevent formalization, especially when labor costs are high relative to the productivity of the workforce. Evidence from around the world, from developed and developing countries, shows that employers have a number of ways they adjust to the costs imposed by onerous labor policies. One of the main lessons that policy makers should learn, is that adopting measures that reduce rigidity and costs can help mitigate the negative impacts on unemployment and informality.
 

An ageing population needs older workers

Wojciech Hardy's picture
Populations are ageing, globally. Prolonging the working life is one of the most pressing challenges for policymakers around the world. As jobless older people face more difficulties in finding work than prime-aged workers, it is important to support workplace retention before retirement. But job retention among older people varies substantially even across neighboring countries or subpopulations. Moreover, retention rates also vary between genders and the largest room for improvement in retention rates pertains to women.
 

Growth is not enough for Mozambique’s informal workers

Sam Jones's picture
Worries over Mozambique’s developmental trajectory have gained international attention  over the last 12 months. These suggest that Mozambique’s most recent phase of growth was built on shaky foundations, without deep roots into the broader domestic economy. The lack of structural transformation in the economy is reflected in the structure of employment, where the vast majority of households continue to rely on informal, smallholder agriculture. Raising agricultural productivity is indispensable.
 

Social protection and the World Humanitarian Summit

Keith Hansen's picture
Beneficiaries receive cash transfer payment in Freetown, Sierra Leone during the ebola crisis. Photo © Dominic Chavez/World Bank

In a world increasingly filled with risk and potential, social protection systems help individuals and families cope with civil war, natural disaster, displacement, and other shocks.
 
Social protection systems also help people find jobs, allow them to meet their basic needs while also investing in the health and education of their children, and protect the elderly and other vulnerable groups. The World Bank Group (WBG) supports universal access to social protection, which is central to its goals of ending poverty and boosting shared prosperity. We also have projects that are directly or indirectly supporting humanitarian work around the world.

Bhutan's Gross National Happiness (GNH) and the World Bank

Genevieve Boyreau's picture
Photo Credit: Oliver Jammes

The concept of “Gross National Happiness” has been long discussed, debated, understated, overstated or seen as a gimmick. Now what is really Gross National Happiness? And how does the World Bank engagement fit in it? Let’s look into it together in an attempt to de-mystify the concept into what it really is, which is: a vision, broad policy directions trickling down to programs, a survey, a policy screening tool, and yes also, a foreign policy instrument and a brand.
                  
The visionary statement, “Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross Domestic Product” was first enunciated by His Majesty the Fourth King of Bhutan in the 1970s. In turn, the Fifth King declared: “Today, GNH has come to mean so many things to so many people but to me it signifies simply - Development with Values. Thus for my nation today GNH is the bridge between the fundamental values of kindness, equality and humanity and the necessary pursuit of economic growth.” Article 9-2 of the constitution directs the state “to promote those conditions that will enable the pursuit of Gross National Happiness”.
 
GNH is translated into broad policy directions that provide the Government’s overarching, long-term strategies and five-year plans. The four pillars of GNH philosophy are: sustainable development; preservation and promotion of cultural values (traditional and cultural heritage paramount  - its loss leads to a general weakening of society); conservation of the natural environment (Bhutan’s constitution: 60 percent forest coverage, green economy), establishment of good governance.

Preventing distortions in minimum wages

Ximena Del Carpio's picture
The minimum wage is a basic labor policy for workers and used in most countries around the world. But can we prevent the distorted use of the minimum wage? In theory yes. It is difficult although not impossible. Using objective methods based on economic tools that design formulas that link specific parameters and criteria to socio-economic context determines optimal levels and discards suboptimal levels. This approach can prevent minimum wages from being used for purposes that ultimately may end up generating undesirable effects on the economy.
 

Can Moldova have a viable pension system … if retirement age is increased?

Yuliya Smolyar's picture
Pensioner in Moldova

In my first blog on Moldova’s pension system, I discussed challenges and reform options. My second one focused on the incentives to contribute into that pension system. Now, in this third blog, I am going to discuss Moldova’s retirement age: why it is important to raise it ... and why it is equally challenging to do so.
 
To better understand the issues faced by public pension systems today, it is important to remember that they are generally pay-as-you-go schemes. This means that those who work today pay the pensions of those who are retired.
 
This particular system was first introduced in Germany back in the 19th century, when the workforce was growing – a very different situation from what we have today. Rapidly ageing societies, longer life expectancy at retirement, lower fertility and migration are all adding pressures on pension systems in many European countries, including Moldova.

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