The World Bank has been tracking the world's progress against poverty since the late eighties, but the release of 2008 data was the first time in which all regions of the developing world showed a decline in the number of people living below poverty lines!
Global spotlights are on jobs. Headlines last Friday highlighted the US jobless rate, which fell to 7.8 percent, the lowest level in four years.
In 2009, an EU-based chemical manufacturer opened a plant inside one of FYR Macedonia’s recently-established special economic zones. The plant began production of catalysts, a type of emissions-control component used in automobiles. Two years later, this investment drove chemical products to the third-highest spot on Macedonia’s export list, lessening the country’s reliance on metals and textiles.
In Nicaragua, low labor costs and high security compared to its neighbors have led zonas francas to expand dramatically, attracting producers of electronic wires and medical devices and expanding the country’s exports beyond an already-strong apparel sector. Between 2006 and 2008, for example, ignition wiring sets for vehicles were the country’s fourth biggest export.
These two examples demonstrate a new trend in small economies. Increasingly, as global value chains grow in importance,
Persistently high unemployment rates continue to trouble policymakers in developed and developing countries alike—but the recent Job Trends report brings some good news. After successive years of disappointing labor market performance, several countries in Eastern Europe may finally be turning the corner. These countries suffered most during the financial crisis, so the recovery in job creation is much needed to boost family incomes. In the rest of the developing world, the headlines are positive even while we see some moderation in employment and wage growth in Latin America and East Asia.
I have two concerns at this stage. I suspect most observers of the world economy share my first concern that the incipient recovery is fragile, given the continuing economic turmoil in Europe. But I am also concerned with what’s happening with specific groups, such as youth and women. I have a hunch that the recovery is and will be uneven with youth, women and the less skilled having a harder time finding jobs—even if aggregate numbers show steady gains. The crisis hit young workers hard, particularly young men, and countries are dealing with long-term consequences. Unfortunately, few countries know what’s happening with groups of workers because the data are not collected routinely or if they are, the results are available only with a relatively long lag time.
Where recent data are available, the story is mixed. Although youth unemployment remains alarmingly high at 20-30 percent,
Investing more on roads, bridges and schools is an essential part of President Obama's American Jobs Act. If this is important in the current U.S. context, the role of both infrastructure and education in job creation is even more fundamental in developing countries, where there's much more to be done than in the U.S.
The crisis around jobs is particularly acute this time not just because 205 million people worldwide are officially unemployed, nor because the quality of available jobs are frequently perceived to be declining, especially the routine middle-grade white-collar jobs workers in the developed countries, nor is it just because skilled and talented people who are in short supply earn multiples of the average salary. The problem in today’s post-crisis world is that policymakers and practitioners around the world are no longer sure how to create jobs, and just as and perhaps even more important, how to