The World Bank has just published its annual World Development Report, something it has been doing for more than three decades. [Disclosure: this economist has been contributing comments to early drafts of the WDR for the past 20 years.] The new volume is about security and development. It says that societies are constantly under internal and external “stresses”—think corruption, youth unemployment, racial discrimination, religious competition, foreign invasion, and international terrorism.
Labor and Social Protection
My entry last week gave a quick profile of the South Asian overseas workers and discussed the crucial role of remittances received from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries (Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman) for South Asian economies. Today I’d like to discuss whether changes in the labor market policies of the GCC countries could jeopardize job prospects for South Asian migrant workers.
Creating jobs for GCC citizens is already on the top of the agenda in some of these countries and is bound to gain more momentum with the youth bulge. Efforts to create jobs for nationals through the “nationalization of the labor market” have been further intensified as a response to the recent events in the Middle East. Across the GCC, additional policy measures are being announced highlighting the need to replace expats with nationals in private and public sector. These messages have been the strongest in Saudi Arabia, but also in the U.A.E. and Kuwait.
What strikes me most as we engage further in citizen security issues in Latin America and the Caribbean is the level of interconnectivity that can be found at every possible level.
To begin with, of course, are the criminals themselves. Crucial to the success of organized criminal organizations is their ability to transcend borders and effectively integrate the very diverse and harmful facets of their enterprise. We also know how much the different forms of crime – drug traffickers, gun traffickers, youth gangs -- feed off one another. This is especially salient in Central America and Mexico, two of our team's priorities.
The latest figures from the Quarterly Labor Force Survey (QLFS) indicate that the unemployment rate has fallen from 25.3% in 2010Q3 to 24% in 2010Q4.
After shedding 86,000 jobs between 2010Q2 and 2010Q3, employment increased by 1.2% q/q, adding 157,000 jobs between 2010Q3 and 2010Q4. Although these figures are encouraging, unemployment has been persistently high over the past decade. Unemployment has not fallen below 21% since 2001. Moreover, as a result of the global financial crisis, over 1,000,000 jobs were lost.
Labor and unemployment challenges in the Arab world have been seen as core ingredients of the revolutions. So now, more than ever is a golden opportunity to tackle these difficult questions and propose bold solutions true to the overwhelming sense of hope and desire for true change.
In the midst of all the new debate, there are some recent lessons, some successful pilots of the near past to provide a springboard for quick starts in this hopeful moment. (After all, those crowds of good people protesting in the streets were engaged in some good things before our Jasmine and January 25 movements cleared a wider space.)
This Arab Voices and Views Conference brings together a group of outstanding activists, academics, scholars and experts from around the Middle East & North Africa, is very significant, in that it does not reflect the World Bank or its views, whose role has been to simply offer the opportunity and the space for the discussion to take place.
It is a unique gathering, not meant to lecture or give presentations, but to discuss and share views on what is happening in the region. More specifically and meaningfully, it is not a forum meant to analyze the changing political dimensions of the current events in the Arab World, but to look more deeply into the issues that have triggered some of them, and map a way forward for the future.
In an economic crisis, whose job do employers put on the chopping block first? Many gender equality advocates and policymakers are concerned that “women are at risk of being hired last and dismissed first” during crises. This concern is fuelled by evidence showing that employers often discriminate against women even during less volatile times, that women often bear the brunt of coping with economic shocks, and that, in many countries, gender norms prioritize men’s employment over women’s. Despite a lot of rhetoric, existing studies of the labor market consequences of macroeconomic crises have yielded ambiguous conclusions about the differential impact across genders. Might claims about women’s vulnerability be exaggerated?
Most studies that look at the distributional impact of crises rely on household and labor force data. However, these data cannot distinguish between two mechanisms that could account for gender differences in employment adjustment. First, differences in vulnerability could be the result of sorting by gender into firms and occupations that differ in their vulnerability to crises. In this case, the effect of gender is indirect; women may take jobs that are relatively more or less vulnerable. Second, there could be differential treatment of men and women workers within the same firm. Faced with the need to adjust, do employers treat women differently, either by firing them first or cutting their wages more? It is this second mechanism that underpins concerns about discrimination. To distinguish between these mechanisms, we need to compare the employment prospects and wage trajectories of men and women both across and within firms—which means we need firm-level data.
The last 20 years have seen a growing engagement between development and human rights practitioners. But are we still mainly talking past each other? Or has there been valuable mutual learning with development results on the ground?
Let’s start by clarifying what I mean when I refer here to human rights. Adapted from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, human rights are international norms that help to protect all people everywhere from severe political, legal, economic and social abuses, or, alternatively, which serve to secure and preserve extremely important goods, protections and freedoms in these various areas, for all people everywhere. These rights are now embodied in the 1947 Universal Declaration on Human Rights and nine core international covenants and treaties.
Since 1947 much has happened. And in the last two decades, there has been a growing convergence between human rights and development. Paralleling the broad reach of human rights concerns, the scope of development has also extended enormously. From mainly being concerned with economic growth, the term has broadened to include poverty reduction, inequality, human and social development, the environment, governance and institutions, just to name some. From GDP figures, we now also think about households and the specific needs of specific groups.
Talking to a Sri Lankan friend about his 80-year old mother, who has been living alone ever since his father passed away 4 years back, brought back memories of my own mother who passed away at the age of 76 in 2008. As my Sri Lankan friend was worried about his mother’s living arrangements (he is happy to have her move in with him, but she prefers to stay alone in the house that has been her home for 46 years), I began to muse about my own father who lives alone at 85 years. He is in reasonable health for his age, and is largely independent, except that he needs oxygen support every night while sleeping as his lungs have lost significant capacity due to fibrosis, and his eyesight has deteriorated considerably. I was feeling guilty for not taking care of him in his old age. Again, it is his decision not to move in with any of his children, as he wants to stay in the apartment which he is familiar with and to be ‘independent’. We have appointed a care-taker who stays with him all day, while my sister and brother-in-law who live just a kilometer away give him company in the nights. Still the guilt feeling is no less.
Co-authored by Lesley Drake, Director of the Partnership for Child Development
As leaves crackled and autumn closed in on Washington DC at this time last year, the Brookings Institution played host for a special event focused on global hunger. At that time, World Bank President, Robert B. Zoellick, joined Executive Director of the U.N. World Food Programme, Josette Sheeran, for a pre-Thanksgiving discussion on the fight against food insecurity that continues to wage on for millions around the globe.
Many of those hungry are the most vulnerable—particularly children.