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What are we learning about the impacts of public works programs on employment and violence? Early findings from ongoing evaluations in fragile states

Eric Mvukiyehe's picture

Labor-intensive public works (LIPW) programs are a popular policy intended to provide temporary employment opportunities to vulnerable populations through work-intensive projects, such as the development and maintenance of local infrastructure, that do not require special skills. For a review of LIPW programs (design, evidence and implementation), see Subbarao et al. here. In fragile states, LIPW programs are also presumed to contribute to social and political stability. The developed infrastructure allows for the implementation of other development and peacekeeping activities, while employment opportunities may help prevent at-risk youth from being recruited by armed groups. Despite their popularity and presumed impact on beneficiaries, the evidence base of LIPW programs has been surprisingly weak.
The Development Impact Evaluation (DIME) unit, in collaboration with the Fragility, Conflict and Violence Cross Cutting Solutions Area (FCV-CSSA) and the Social Protection and Labor Global Practice (SPL-GP), is carrying out a multi-country set of 7 Randomized Control Trials (RCTs) of LIPW programs targeting around 40,000 households across 5 countries: Comoros, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, and Tunisia. This initiative is part of a broader research program on Fragility, Conflict and Violence (FCV) — a portfolio of 35 impact evaluations in over 25 countries that focuses on 5 key priority areas: (i) jobs for the poor and at-risk youth; (ii) public sector governance/civil service reforms; (ii) political economy of post-conflict reconstruction; (iv) gender-based violence; and (v) urban crime and violence.

Should people be paid to apply for jobs? Guest post by Stefano Caria

This is the sixth in this year’s job market series 
Labor misallocation is believed to be a key driver of differences in income across countries (Hsieh and Klenow 2010). However, the causes of this misallocation are not always well understood and there is little evidence on what interventions can improve the allocation of workers in the economy. These issues are particularly important in Sub-Saharan Africa, where worker mobility from low to high productivity sectors is often limited (McMillan, Rodrick and Verduzco-Gallo 2014).
My job market paper provides new experimental evidence from Ethiopia showing that subsidizing job applications can reduce inefficiencies in the allocation of workers’ talent.

The Iron Law of ALMPs: Offer a Program to 100 People, maybe 2 get jobs

David McKenzie's picture

I have just finished writing up and expanding my recent policy talk on active labor market policies (ALMPs) into a research paper (ungated version) which provides a critical overview of impact evaluations on this topic. While my talk focused more on summarizing a lot of my own work on this topic, for this review paper I looked a lot more into the growing number of randomized experiments evaluating these policies in developing countries. Much of this literature is very new: out of the 24 RCTs I summarize results from in several tables, 16 were published in 2015 or later, and only one before 2011.

I focus on three main types of ALMPs: vocational training programs, wage subsidies, and job search assistance services like screening and matching. I’ll summarize a few findings and implications for evaluations that might be of most interest to our blog readers – the paper then, of course, provides a lot more detail and discusses more some of the implications for policy and for other types of ALMPs.

We gave Sri Lankan microenterprises wage subsidies to hire workers: 8 years after starting, here’s what happened

David McKenzie's picture

In my very first experiment, Suresh de Mel, Chris Woodruff, and I gave small grants of capital to microenterprises in Sri Lanka. We found that these one-time grants had lasting impacts on firm profitability for male owners. However, despite these increases in firm profits, few owners made the leap from self-employed to hiring others.
In 2008 we therefore started a new experiment with a different group of Sri Lankan microenterprises, trying to see if we could help them make this transition to becoming employers. Eight years later, I’m delighted to finally have a working paper out with the results.

Are our blog readers better predictors of impact results than seminar audiences? Evaluating programs to get young women to work

David McKenzie's picture

I’ve been working for the last couple of years with Tara Vishwanath, Nandini Krishnan and Matt Groh on a pilot program in Jordan which aims to get young women just graduating from community college into work. Today I want to describe what we did, and ask you to predict the results – which I will then share in a subsequent blog post.

When it comes to female education, have we gotten it all backwards?

Berk Ozler's picture

To get children to attend school in developing countries, our approach has been primarily to assume that the schooling that is available is worth pursuing, meaning that the problem must be with some barrier to go to school despite a great desire to do so: perhaps the family cannot afford the costs of schooling; perhaps the schools are not good or too far; perhaps the children want to be in school but the parents prefer food today to educated daughter tomorrow; maybe people don’t know the value of schooling, etc.