Innovations in youth employment programs are critical to addressing this enormous development challenge effectively. Rapid progress in digital technology, behavioral economics, evaluation methods, and the connectivity of youth in the developing world generates a stream of real-time insights and opportunities in project design and implementation. Part of the challenge is the sheer number of projects (just in Egypt, there are over 180 youth employment programs). And even without being aware, projects often innovate out of necessity in response to situations they face on the ground. But innovations need to be tested in different country contexts to be able to make an impact at scale.
Through the new Solutions for Youth Employment (S4YE) report, our team ventured to curate a few such ongoing innovations as they were being implemented through S4YE’s Impact Portfolio — a group of 19 youth employment projects from different regions being implemented by different partners across the globe. This network of youth employment practitioners serves as a dynamic learning community and laboratory for improving the jobs outcomes of youth globally.
In high-income countries, entrepreneurs routinely accept electronic payments from customers and make electronic payments to suppliers, tax authorities and others. But in developing countries, where more than a third of adults report being self-employed, digital payments are an underdeveloped business tool – one that can provide significant benefits to both entrepreneurs as well as society by bringing more people into the formal financial system. With the rapid growth of mobile phone ownership to facilitate digital payments in the developing world, shifting from cash to digital payments offers high potential payoffs for entrepreneurs worldwide. A new report shows how digital payments can benefit entrepreneurs.
Economic research is essential for designing and implementing evidence-based solutions to improve job opportunities. In a recent conference organized by the World Bank and IZA, researchers from around the world presented over 30 research papers on important labor topics such as migration, gender, youth employment, and labor policies in low-income countries. Here is an illustrative sample of four innovative works presented during the conference.
For a young person who has spent his or her whole life living in a village in rural Africa, moving out is often desirable in theory, but daunting in practice. From the life histories of migrants in Tanzania it becomes clear that a number of important resources are needed, which are typically scarce in supply, particularly within the village. These include, among others, cash to pay the bus fare and a familiar face at destination, professional skills to find meaningful employment, and the life skills to operate in the anonymous, cash-based urban environment. And just because of the particular challenge of getting these in the village, the first move becomes so special.
In our previous post, we explored how migration from rural to urban areas is not a one-step move, but rather a dynamic lifelong process that expands and modifies migrants’ action space and opportunities to improve their life conditions, and how the attraction of secondary towns could be partly understood within this framework because of their role as “action space” enhancers.
Yet, defining precisely what constitutes a town or a city is tricky, to the point that Wittgenstein found it even a useful analogy with which to demonstrate definitional conundrums more broadly. “And how many houses or streets does it take for a town to be a town?”, he rhetorically asks his readers, while discussing at what point a language should be considered complete in his Philosophical Investigations.
At the same time, the distinction between towns and cities is intuitively unambiguous to most non-experts. Asking how migrants themselves see the difference may further help understand why they often move to towns, while the income levels and amenities are higher in the cities. According to the conversations we had with 75 migrants from rural Kagera, Tanzania, three dimensions stand out: vibrancy, monetization and anonymity.
Raymond is a young boy living in rural Kagera, Tanzania. He has always dreamed of moving to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s prime city, 1,650 km away and currently with a population of 4.5 million. Getting there, for someone with his background and skills, was next to impossible. But, having familiarized himself with the wheeling and dealing of urban life through his moves through several secondary towns in Tanzania, he is getting closer. Over the past few years, he moved 8 times, expanding and contracting his action space with each move.
The story of Raymond challenges the traditional vision of rural to urban migration as a one-step process. It further draws attention to the opportunity that secondary towns can add for improving people’s welfare through migration. These are some of the insights emerging from the in-depth conversations with 75 migrants from rural Kagera, Tanzania which are recounted here in a 3-blog series. This first blog focuses on the importance of “Making action space”.
Finding a good job is increasingly difficult – especially for young people. Globally, young people are up to four times more likely to be unemployed than adults. Furthermore, the lack of opportunity can have devastating consequences for their long-term employment outcomes. Youth often lack the skills and competencies that are in high demand from employers, but they also face information gaps about which relevant skills they should signal to prospective employers.
To better understand youth and skills trends in emerging markets, the Solutions for Youth Employment (S4YE) Coalition embarked on a research collaboration with LinkedIn to analyze demand and supply side data from 390,000 entry-level job postings and 6.4 million LinkedIn profiles of young people (aged 21-29) in four diverse middle-income countries. Using big data analytics, the recently released report The Skills Gap or Signaling Gap: Insights from LinkedIn in emerging markets of Brazil, India, Indonesia, and South Africa brings the following three insights on what skills employers in those countries are looking for in youth hires.
Technology and the internet are probably the first things that come to mind when you think about the future of work for young people; not agriculture or farming. This makes historic sense, as agriculture sheds labor when countries develop. And the traditional ways of producing food do not look particularly sexy. Yet, technology and the internet are also opening up opportunities for agriculture, and urbanization and changing diets are calling for new ways to process, market and consume our foods. So, can agriculture provide job opportunities for youth?
Every day, more of our decisions are data-driven and our lives become dependent on digital tools —think about the weather and transportation apps on your smartphone. Today, governments produce more data than ever before, yet the Open Data Barometer finds that most countries fail to "use open data to truly change people’s lives for the better." This open data sits unused, and citizens are not able to reap the economic benefits. There is a myriad of payoffs to using government data to tackle complex problems like finding jobs, affordable housing, better schools, and making communities thrive. Open data gives us the power to innovate and be competitive at the local and global level—but how do we unleash the potential to do more with data?
If you are looking for a good reading list before the summer ends, we’ve compiled a selection of five recent papers and publications that touch on jobs and changing landscape of labor markets. These recommended readings have one thing in common: they analyze the challenges ahead through different lenses. How is the labor market recovering after the economic crisis? Can life-long learning become workers’ strategy for upskilling in a digital economy? Have countries improved in reducing gender gap at work? What policies can support job creation?