The view that a productive agriculture is critical for employment creation and poverty reduction is now widely shared within the development community. Yet, this has not always been the case. In the run up to the 2008 world food price crisis, many development practitioners, government officials and economists doubted whether agriculture could still play this role, especially in Africa. Agro-pessimism had set in during the 1990s and 2000s, with a decline in policy attention and agricultural investment. The food price spikes of 2008 brought a realization that more needed to be done to strengthen agriculture in developing countries.
Labor and Social Protection
This last May in Tokyo, we talked about demographic transitions and aging cities, in a week-long discussion with city leaders from around the world. Although we saw the opportunities that arise from having large numbers of elderly persons in cities, we also focused on the numerous challenges, many of which are grounded in age-related disability – both physical and cognitive. We had expected that the conversation would be as our flagship report on social inclusion, Inclusion Matters: The Foundation for Shared Prosperity, puts it – about “including” the elderly into markets, services, and spaces following our framework.
Enter Rich Donovan, with a riveting talk that stood our assumptions on their heads. Rich argued that persons with disability are a market. They are an opportunity. And that there is an economic “return on disability.” If we build and design having persons with disabilities in mind, we are in fact creating public goods. In short, and as Rich has said elsewhere - this new vision of disability “transforms efforts of charity into the world’s largest emerging market”.
I got a chance to talk to Rich in Tokyo. Among other things, I asked him whether “social inclusion” is too arcane, or even too limiting an idea for the revolutionary take that he has on disability.
Rich’s book “Unleash Different” will be out in September 2018. We look forward to continuing the conversation with Rich about the return on disability. Meanwhile, watch this video in full, and leave a comment to share your thoughts, as world leaders gather in London for the Global Disability Summit.
One out of ten people in the world —around 766 million people— still lived below the extreme poverty line in 2013. Most of them, 80 percent, live in rural areas and have very low productivity jobs. Improving jobs and earnings opportunities for these poor and vulnerable workers is at the core of the World Bank Group agenda and it requires holistic economic inclusion initiatives to move them into sustainable livelihoods.
“The main driver of growth in Bhutan continues to be the hydropower sector, but electricity generation does not create job,” said a senior government officials attending the presentation of The World Bank’s South Asia Focus on Jobless Growth on June 28th in Thimphu. The report was presented by Martin Rama, World Bank South Asia Region Chief Economist and was attended by senior government officials, parliamentarians and development partners. The presentation alongside the launch of Bhutan Development Update was a great opportunity for the policy makers to better understand and synthesize Bhutan and the South Asia region’s development opportunities.
In the case of Bhutan, it seems clear that growth alone will not allow it to attain higher employment rates as enjoyed by some other developing countries.
"More than 1.8 million young people will reach working age every month in South Asia through 2025 and the good news is that economic growth is creating jobs in the region,” said Martin Rama,. “But providing opportunities to these young entrants while attracting more women into the labor market will require generating even more jobs for every point of economic growth.”
The report informs that the fall in employment rates has been much faster in the region particularly in India, Bhutan and Sri Lanka and especially for women, risking foregoing the demographic dividend. While it is evident that the number of working age people is increasing, the proporation who are at work has declined owing to prioritization of the households to education, health and other commitments with increasing level of income.
Our starting point is to deal with what we know – and the biggest challenge that the future of work faces – and has faced for decades – is the vast numbers of people who live day to day on casual labor, not knowing from one week to the next if they will have a job and unable to plan ahead, let alone months rather than years, for their children’s prosperity. We call this the informal economy – and as with so much pseudo-technical language which erects barriers, the phrase fails to convey the abject state of purgatory to which it condemns millions of workers and their families around the world.
Do you wonder if the good fortune and opportunities that you’ve enjoyed in your professional life will be available to your children, and to their children? At a time of strong global economic growth, it may seem paradoxical that we face an existential crisis around the future of work. But the pace of innovation is accelerating, and the jobs of the future – in a few months or a few years – will require specific, complex skills.
In short, the changing nature of work – and how best to prepare people for the jobs of the future – are some of the toughest challenges countries face, which is why they’re the subject of this year’s World Development Report.
Because the future of work matters to all of us, we decided to give this report an unprecedented level of transparency. For the first time since the World Bank began publishing the WDR in 1978, the report is completely transparent throughout the writing process. Every Friday afternoon, the latest draft is uploaded to the World Bank website, so that anyone with internet access has an opportunity to read it and engage with the team of authors. I can’t promise that the WDR won’t have changed a week from now, which is why I encourage you to keep revisiting it as we keep revising it.
For new readers, here are a few insights into the report’s contents that I hope will get you thinking about the future of work:
South Asia is booming. In 2018, GDP growth for the region as a whole is expected to accelerate to 6.9 percent, making it the fastest growing region in the world. However, fast GDP growth has not translated into fast employment growth. In fact, employment rates have declined across the region, with women accounting for most of this decline.
The unusual trend for female employment rates in South Asia is clear from Figure 1. While male employment rates in South Asia are in line with those of other countries at the same income level, female employment rates are well below.
If women are choosing to exit the labor force as family incomes rise, should policymakers worry? There are at least three reasons why the drop in female employment rates may have important social costs. First, household choices may not necessarily match women’s preferences. Those preferences reflect the influence of ideas and norms about what is women’s work and men’s work as well as other gendered notions such as the idea that women should take care of the children and housework. Second, when women control a greater share of household incomes, children are healthier and do better in school. Third, when women work for pay, they have a greater voice in their households, in their communities, and in society. The economic gains from women participating equally in the labor market are sizable: A recent study estimated that the overall gain in GDP to South Asia from closing gender gaps in employment and entrepreneurship would be close to 25 percent.
IT’S robots that mostly come to mind when you ask people about the future of work. Robots taking our jobs, to be specific. And it’s a reaction that’s two centuries old, in a replay of Lancashire weavers attacking looms and stocking frames at the start of the first Industrial Revolution. A secondary reaction, among a much smaller group, is the creation of new jobs in the coming fourth Industrial Revolution.
Professor Ed Glaeser at Harvard neatly summarizes this dichotomy in one figure:
Let’s start with social protection in Africa. A new paper by Kagin et al. estimates that in Malawi, each Malawi Kwacha (MK) transferred through the Social Cash Transfer Program generates 1.88 MK, while multipliers of public works are between 2.9-3.24 MK. In the same country, the Malawi Economic Monitor by Kandoole et al. has a very crisp, insightful edition discussing safety nets, e.g., spending is only 0.6% of GDP compared to 2% of input subsidies, and almost 6% on humanitarian aid.