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.
Context: At the time of graduation, 93% of female community college graduates in Jordan say they would like to work, but 16 months later, only 23% of the control group are employed. This problem of pervasive unemployment for relatively educated youth is endemic throughout the Middle East, and was the motivation for a pilot program.
What did we do?
The Jordan New Opportunities for Women (Jordan NOW) pilot program aimed to help young women overcome some of the obstacles that firms say make them reluctant to hire women. We took a sample of 1350 young women (typical age 20-22, 13% married at baseline) who graduated from community colleges in August 2010. Their main fields of study were business administration, medical assistance (nursing and pharmacy), and teaching. We tried two interventions:
Wage subsidy: Graduates were given a job voucher they could take to firm when looking for work. The voucher would pay a firm 150 JD ($225) per month for up to 6 months if they hired the worker , an amount exactly equal to the minimum wage at the time. To use the voucher the firm had to be legally registered, have a bank account, and give the job offer in writing, but we did not require the worker to register the worker for social security. There was monthly monitoring to ensure the worker was employed, and if the worker left the firm before 6 months were up, they could take the voucher with them, and apply the remaining months at another firm. The students had an 11 month window in which they could use their 6 months of the voucher.
The idea behind this intervention was that by making it cheaper to hire these workers, firms might be less reluctant to take a chance on a young, untested worker. It also may motivate workers to search harder for jobs and give them confidence to approach employers. This may result in some job matches that will stick when the subsidy ends, or build human capital enough that students who are not productive initially for firms will be worth firms continuing to employ the workers once the voucher ends.
Soft skills training: Graduates were invited to a training course on key soft skills employers say they want graduates to have. This covered effective communication and business writing skills (e.g. making a presentation, writing business reports, different types of correspondence), team-building and team work skills (e.g. characteristics of a successful team, how to work in different roles within a team), time management, positive thinking and how to use this in business situations, excellence in providing customer service, and C.V. and interviewing skills. The training course was 45 hours (5 hours per day for 9 days), and was provided by a high-quality local training provider – Business Development Center (BDC) – which had widespread local name recognition, and years of experience providing training courses – for example, it also runs programs for USAID and the Empretec program. Sessions were based on active participation and cooperative learning rather than lectures, with games, visual learning experiences, group exercises, and active demonstrations used to teach and illustrate concepts. 62% of those invited to training attended.
The idea behind this intervention was that non-cognitive skills have been shown to be important predictors of employment in a range of contexts, and so teaching youth these skills may make them more likely to get jobs in the first place, and make them better performers in the first few months of the job thereby lessening the chance firms would get rid of them quickly. It may also give youth more motivation and confidence to look for jobs.
Students were randomized by lottery into 4 groups:
· 299 students who received the job voucher only
· 300 students who were invited to the soft skills training only
· 299 students who both got the voucher and were invited to training
· 449 students who were the control group.
Two follow-up surveys were collected: the midline survey was taken in April 2011, 8 months after graduation and while the voucher period was still in effect; and an endline survey taken in December 2011, 16 months after graduation and 4 months after the voucher had ended. 18% of the control group was employed at midline and 23% at endline.
What do you think the impact of these interventions were? I’ve asked this recently in a couple of seminars, and would love to compare the responses to those from our blog readers. Please take 2 minutes of your time to fill in (anonymously) your expectations by clicking on this one-page survey link . (please don’t do this if you have heard the results already).
We will then compare the accuracy of responses from our blog readers to those of World Bank and IDB staff, and seminar audiences at a couple of universities. Thanks, if you need any more information to give your estimates, ask in the comments and I will reply.