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Narrowing gender gaps through online job matching: How does Souktel do it?

Indhira Santos's picture

“Within two days, I was able to hire the right people from the right locations” -- Employer using Souktel

In West Bank and Gaza, women are 19 percent of the total labor force (figure 1). But among the users of Souktel, an online job matching platform, more than one third of the users are women. This is one of the many promises of digital technologies for development.
 
Figure 1: Share of the labor force, nationally and in Souktel

Source: Souktel and Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, prepared for World Development Report 2016.

In early 2015, as part of the World Development Report 2016 “Digital Dividends,” we collaborated with Souktel in conducting a phone survey among users of its services to better understand the role of information and communication technology (ICT) in linking workers to jobs. Online job matching platforms are one key way of getting workers closer to jobs, and through innovative combinations with “offline” tools, they can promote not only more efficient labor markets, but also make jobs more inclusive.

As the upcoming World Development Report documents, online job boards, social media, and matching platforms can improve labor market efficiency, especially in developing countries and in the informal sector, where information failures are large. Looking for work and recruiting online are cheaper than traditional methods and allow faster job matching.[i] In Peru, integrating mobile phones into traditional public intermediation services increased employment among job seekers by 8 percentage points in the short term by essentially increasing the speed with which workers were matched to jobs.[ii] In Germany, online job seekers are better matched to jobs, are happier with work, and have higher chances of promotion and job security.[iii]

About Souktel

Souktel is an organization which began its work in the West Bank and Gaza in 2009. There, it offers an online job-matching service which is also active in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Rwanda, and Somalia. There are more than 15,000 registered job seekers on the West Bank/Gaza service, and more than 75,000 job seekers across all of the countries. The service registers job seekers through SMS and online, provides information on vacancies, advises on resume preparation, and does active job matching by screening potential candidates for vacancies. Notifications on relevant job vacancies are sent through voice calls and SMS once or twice a week. Not surprisingly, job seekers in the platform are young (80 percent are age 15–25) and well educated (all have completed secondary and half have completed tertiary education). Among Souktel’s core users, four of 10 do not have jobs. There are 200 registered employers, most medium in size (80 percent).
 
Benefits

The main benefit that job seekers see in Souktel’s service is saving time and money for job search. The principal reason for job seekers to use Souktel is to look for jobs that match their skills and experience, but more than a third look for jobs in new occupations or industries. Souktel connects users to better paying jobs. The share of workers earning less than average monthly earnings (around $500 per month) drops both for men and women after finding a job through Souktel (figure 2).
 
Figure 2: Souktel job seekers earning less than $500 a month in the job before and after using Souktel

Source: Survey of Souktel registered users, conducted as background research for World Development Report 2016.
 
Employers report that using online job platforms allows them to hire from a prescreened pool of high-quality candidates and reduce the time and cost for hiring. Firms report a reduction in recruiting costs of about 20 percent from using Souktel services.
 
Promoting more inclusive labor markets: The gender dimension
 
The experience of Souktel in West Bank & Gaza shows that women can see tremendous benefits from online job matching platforms. An online platform provides women in that context with access to more job opportunities than traditional recruiting methods do. More female users (90 percent) than male users (72 percent) rely only on the internet and online job search platforms for finding jobs. This, in fact, may be reflecting constraints that women face for traditional “offline” job search and matching: social norms, child and family responsibilities, and lack of networks.[iv] Online job matching addresses these constraints, at least partially. About 70 percent of users have been invited for a job interview at least once. Female job seekers are more often invited to interviews than male job seekers.
 
Remaining Challenges

Souktel is successfully connecting job seekers and jobs. However, challenges still remain, including: (i) reaching to lower skilled workers, (ii) provision of additional services, such as interview training (requested by the 40 percent of female users and 30 percent of male users) and (iii) improving the quality of information on the platform (i.e. provision of up-to-date job information, better candidate screening, and reduction of the no-show candidates for the interviews by sending them reminders). The latter two challenges can be addressed through improvements to the service itself. But the first challenge depends on each platform’s customer segmentation, and, more fundamentally, on structural barriers to accessing jobs faced by low-skilled workers. For instance, Babajob in India, targets lower skilled workers, including drivers, and cooks, and provides an interactive voice response to enable user registration for illiterate job seekers.
 
Opportunities

So, how can policy makers help workers take further advantage of these job matching and search platforms to facilitate employment? These are few things that they can do:
 
1) Awareness Building and improving access

The majority of people still do not know about these platforms. In the meantime, universities and vocational training institutions suffer from low placement rates. Introducing job search and matching platforms to these education institutions would be a good start to increasing awareness. In addition, governments may consider partnering with private online job search sites for expanding access to the poor and low-skilled. These new approaches would need to be systematically evaluated and will depend on what the binding constraints are in each context., but could include training on CV preparation, subsidizing user costs, or strategically complementing digital tools with “offline” ones such as mobile units that reach areas not connected or hard to serve.
 
2) Identity verification

Employers sometimes suffer from the workers who lie on their CVs and falsify their skillsets. For online job matching and search platforms, matching the workers and employers accurately is important. The government can partner with these online platforms to support skills and identity verification of job seekers. This could be done through partnering with public training and educational institutions as well as national ID system.
 
3) Big Data and real-time data analysis

One of the interesting opportunities emerging from these platforms is data on job seekers and employers. Policy makers can analyze the behavior of job seekers and employers and labor market dynamics to improve skills mismatch by using these new sources of data. This analysis could serve as a new information source to inform labor market policies, complementing more traditional sources. As a follow-up research, Saori Imaizumi and the team are currently conducting a big data analysis of labor markets in India through the analysis of the datasets from Babajob. 

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[i] Kuhn, Peter. 2014. “The Internet as a Labor Market Matchmaker.” IZA World of Labor 2014: 18. Bonn.Kuhn (2014) and World Bank.2013. Jobs. World Development Report 2013. World Bank: Washington, DC.
[ii] Dammert, Ana, Jose Galdo and Virgilio Galdo. 2014. “Mobile Phones for Labor Market Intermediation: A Multi-Treatment Experimental Design.” Working paper, available at: http://www.iza.org/conference_files/worldb2014/galdo_j2620.pdf.
[iii] Mang, Constantin. 2012. “Online Job Search and Matching Quality.” Ifo Working Paper 147. Munich.
[iv] Gatti, Roberta; Morgandi, Matteo; Grun, Rebekka; Brodmann, Stefanie; Angel-Urdinola, Diego; Moreno, Juan Manuel; Marotta, Daniela; Schiffbauer, Marc; Mata Lorenzo, Elizabeth. 2013. Jobs for Shared Prosperity : Time for Action in the Middle East and North Africa. Washington, DC: World Bank. 

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