The latest revelations regarding covert data sharing practices by large tech companies demand governments finally take action to curb the unwanted exploitation of user data. To date, attention has been focused on privacy regulation; governments would be well served to look at tax policy, too. Digital taxes would better align taxation rights with value creation in the digital economy. They might also serve to communicate the growing frustration with abusive data management practices by the biggest offenders.
The gig economy matches businesses to consumers through digital platforms. It serves local communities such as Tutorama, an Egyptian online platform connecting students with local private tutors. In Jordan, refugee women who have limited mobility are able to make a living by selling home-cooked dishes through Bilforon, a food-delivery platform. In 2018, more than five thousand women domestic workers earned income through SweepSouth, a home cleaning service platform in South Africa.
Reform leaders who are persuaded by the need to invest in human capital face the challenge of getting thousands of state personnel, who staff myriad government agencies, to deliver. The quintessential “delivery unit” in Africa, a region flagged by the Human Capital Index as having the greatest need for health and education investments, consists of local governments helmed by appointed bureaucrats and locally elected politicians. In new research in Uganda, we find that the quality of local politicians, elected at humble levels in a village or district, is a robust and substantial predictor of delivery of national health programs. These results suggest that for the Human Capital Project to have impact it may need to move beyond creating political space for national leaders to allocate more public resources to health and education and take-on the challenge of local politics as key to service delivery at the last mile.
What we (don’t) know about gender gaps in multidimensional poverty …
Gender gaps are pervasive in many dimensions of well-being. Globally, almost two-thirds of the world’s illiterate adults are women, because of past (and sometimes present) gender inequalities in access to schooling. Women are also often more “time poor” than men due to the double burden of labor market activities and domestic chores and more “asset poor” due to gender biased laws, traditions and institutions.
The Middle East and North Africa region have some of the best educated, unemployed people in the world. High-skill university graduates currently make up almost 30 percent of the unemployed pool of labor in MENA, many of them women. In Tunisia, slightly more than half of the working age population is out of work, the vast majority being women. Part of the problem is that, despite some economic growth, not enough new jobs are being created.
To design effective and durable relief programs for refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs), it is essential to understand the nature and context of the challenges the people living in these situations face. That’s why we have recently started to measure consumption and estimate rates of poverty among displaced populations. Through understanding the most acute challenges that vulnerable populations face, relief can be targeted to where support is needed most.
When video streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime offer a one month free subscription, they are offering potential users an opportunity to experience the benefits of having access to a wide range of entertainment options, weigh the benefits against the monthly subscription cost, and hopefully, promote adoption in the long run. Essentially, Netflix is providing us a short-run subsidy to promote long-run adoption. So, what can we learn from Netflix’s marketing strategy about promoting technology adoption in the field of development economics? We know that some technologies are experience goods and a one-time subsidy may promote experiential learning, leading to higher adoption in the long run. However, policymakers and practitioners often worry that providing large initial subsidies may set a wrong precedence, distort the expected price of a new technology and make people less likely to adopt and continue to use a technology once the subsidy is discontinued. What they are referring to is called reference dependence in prospect theory.
This blog is the ninth in a series of ten blogs on commodity market developments, elaborating on themes discussed in the latest edition of the World Bank’s Commodity Markets Outlook. Earlier blogs are here.
The World Bank’s Precious Metals Price Index is forecast to decline marginally in 2019, following an expected 2 percent loss in 2018. Gold prices are projected to edge marginally lower and silver prices to tick slightly higher, while platinum prices are anticipated to rebound moderately. Key risks to this outlook are U.S. monetary policy, the strength of the U.S. dollar, and global demand.
Precious metals price index
Are robots, friends or foes of the future of work? Automation is eliminating some routine jobs but, on the positive side, robots are good partners for workers engaged in tasks that demand analytical, interpersonal, and creative skills, as well as manual physical skills involving dexterity.
A person is caught stealing groceries from a supermarket. How should the justice system sanction such behavior?
In the modern system of criminal justice, the sentence imposed on such a perpetrator should prevent that person from repeating the crime, demonstrate to society that such behavior is undesirable hence punishable, penalize the person for the morally wrong deed, and try to rehabilitate the criminal. As analyzed by Becker (1968), deterrence relies on the postulate that the threat of criminal punishment alters the cost-benefit calculation of rational agents.
But what if it doesn’t?
The Economist recently published an article about the promise of technology to improve the quality of education in low- and middle-income countries. It gives a balanced view of technology’s potential: It isn’t “a substitute for well-qualified, motivated teachers” and in order to work, “tech innovations need the acceptance of teachers and administrators.” But it can help teachers to manage classrooms with students at dramatically different learning levels, and it can help administrators to monitor teacher performance. The examples in the articles are backed up by high-quality studies of the impact of educational technology on student learning.
The OECD base erosion and profit shifting initiative, aimed at closing tax avoidance gaps in the international system, is meant to be inclusive. Today roughly two-thirds of the initiative’s members are emerging economies. Yet, as discussions expand to questions regarding who gets to tax what in the digital economy, it is becoming clear that the OECD is an unlikely forum for the task. Instead, institutions like the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund are the obvious conveners. These institutions have the global membership required for such decision-making.
When the going gets tough, do the tough need higher pay?
Many public policies and nearly all international aid aim to improve the well-being of the poor. Front-line service providers may not embrace this goal, however. Is this mismatch important? Can it be corrected? These questions are crucial for the success of public policies meant to equalize services to the poor and non-poor. Recent evidence suggests that money helps – but how we select service providers matters, too.
Non-energy prices declined by 1 percent, due to losses in agriculture and metals.
Agricultural prices fell 1 percent—a 3 percent decline in oils and meals was offset by a marginal gain in beverages.
Fertilizer prices gained nearly 6 percent, led by a 13 percent increase in urea.
Last week I spoke at the World Bank’s Productivity Bootcamp, organized by Ana Cusalito, Bill Maloney, and Jan De Loecker. A psychologist might say that the professor in me could not let go of teaching. But the Bootcamp was about more than “productivity.” It covered firm profitability, competition, and market power – topics that lie at the heart of the raging debate on market concentration and firm profits, the declining labor share in the U.S., and rising inequality.
From the e-commerce site Taobao.com to the social media app WeChat, China has drawn global attention to its digital platform economy. A third of the top-200 digital platforms were born in China according to the Global Platform Survey 2016. They are also growing fast. A 2017 report published by Ali Research shows that the digital platform sector contributes to 10.5% of China’s GDP.
We have been living with digital platforms for about a decade now and their impact on changing how we work is beginning to make itself felt. Even so, it merits much greater attention and investigation, but until now the spotlight has been trained firmly on robots and automation.
This blog is the eighth in a series of ten blogs on commodity market developments, elaborating on themes discussed in the latest edition of the World Bank’s Commodity Markets Outlook. Earlier blogs are here.
The World Bank’s Metals and Minerals Price Index is forecast to remain broadly unchanged in 2019, following a projected 5 percent increase in 2018. However, volatility is anticipated to remain elevated due to China’s environmental policies, tariff negotiations between the United States and China, and Chinese policy responses aimed at stimulating the economy and cushioning the impact of trade tensions.