With the right kind of reforms, public employment services can do a better job of matching job seekers from poor households. In low and middle-income countries, individuals from poor households find jobs through informal contacts; for example asking friends and family and other members of their limited network. But this type of informal job search tends to channel high concentrations of the poor individuals into informal, low-paid work.
Job seekers especially from poor households need bigger, more formal networks to go beyond the limited opportunities offered by the informal sector in their local communities. This is where public employment services can help, but in developing countries many of these services just simply do not work well: they suffer from limited financing and poor connections to employers, and governments are looking for ways to reform and modernize them to today’s job challenges.
There are lots of cases where developing countries have improved their public employment services and these can serve as models. The lessons from these successful reforms can be distilled and replicated. Based on our recent publication, here are three case-tested strategies that improved the performance, relevance and image of public employment services.
Youth employment projects face varying contextual realities and constraints that often result in generating innovations when adapting and customizing their monitoring and evaluation system. There is a lag in the spread of innovations due to the various contexts, funders, and organizations often operating independently. Project teams find their own solutions to similar rising challenges, which in some instances lead to a medley of methods and conventions in monitoring and evaluation that lack a uniform standard.
To capture some of the main innovations and challenges in monitoring and evaluation, we held our first Virtual Workshop with Solutions for Youth Employment (S4YE)’s Impact Portfolio, which is a group of 19 promising and innovative youth employment projects. This brought together 30 participants from locations spanning across regions. As our new report highlights, challenges include: measuring job creation; consistently measuring important outcomes such as the financial behaviors of entrepreneurs; and tracking beneficiaries after graduating from youth employment programs to measure labor market outcomes.
We covered two new frameworks varying in scope, from a broad overarching framework to track jobs-related outcomes of projects to a newly developed metric focused on cost-effectiveness.
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.