According to The Africa Competitiveness Report 2017, Africa is forecasted to produce just 100 million new jobs by 2035, while the working age population is projected to grow by more than 450 million. The fastest population growth will occur in the 15 to 35-year-old demographic. This growing working-age population presents both an opportunity and a potential risk to Africa’s future prosperity. To ensure these new workers engage in productive livelihoods and prevent significant increases in extreme poverty and civil unrest, governments will need to enable job creation, including scaling cost-effective livelihood development programs targeting the extreme poor. Described below is a cost-effective approach which is yielding promising results and scaling through results-based financing.
Labor and Social Protection
The view that a productive agriculture is critical for employment creation and poverty reduction is now widely shared within the development community. Yet, this has not always been the case. In the run up to the 2008 world food price crisis, many development practitioners, government officials and economists doubted whether agriculture could still play this role, especially in Africa. Agro-pessimism had set in during the 1990s and 2000s, with a decline in policy attention and agricultural investment. The food price spikes of 2008 brought a realization that more needed to be done to strengthen agriculture in developing countries.
One out of ten people in the world —around 766 million people— still lived below the extreme poverty line in 2013. Most of them, 80 percent, live in rural areas and have very low productivity jobs. Improving jobs and earnings opportunities for these poor and vulnerable workers is at the core of the World Bank Group agenda and it requires holistic economic inclusion initiatives to move them into sustainable livelihoods.
Finding a job is a challenging process ---and it can be especially difficult and overwhelming for youth and people entering the labor market for the first time. Youth unemployment rates in Sub-Saharan Africa are double those of adult unemployment for both men and women. Estimates show that 11 million youth will enter the labor market in Sub-Saharan Africa each year for the coming decade. This offers the potential to dramatically reduce poverty. But to make the most of this opportunity, young people need to engage in productive employment that fuels economic growth. In this blog, we present two simple and effective strategies to support job seekers to find employment.
Ghana was the first country in Sub-Saharan Africa to meet the Millennium Development Goal (MDG1) target of halving extreme poverty by 2015. A share of the population living in poverty decreased from 52% in 1991 to 24% in 2012. Ghana is eager to lead the way in Africa again, but this time to graduate extreme poor households, out of poverty. The current policy debates are around graduating in about three to four years some 8.4 % of households living in extreme poverty. But to what occupations?
The disadvantages young women face in the labor market and in entrepreneurship in developing countries are not only substantial and complex, but they quickly compound. A plethora of forces drive gender disparities in youth employment: lack of opportunities to develop the skills demanded by the labor market, family or social pressure dissuading them from entering desirable jobs or male-dominated sectors, a detrimental work environment, or a lack of available services such as childcare might make achieving success an uphill battle. Yet innovative youth employment programs can respond to gender issues. Below are three examples presented in a recent virtual workshop held by the Solutions for Youth Employment (S4YE) coalition with members of its Impact Portfolio community.
Creating jobs is not cheap —as I discussed in this post— and it can also be a slow process. It takes time for an idea to become a business plan and eventually a new or larger business. At the same time, in many developing countries, macro and regulatory policies often discourage entrepreneurship and investments. Reforming these policies takes time and having results on the ground even longer.
In the meantime, in many countries, there is a sense of urgency to address important labor challenges. It is not only youth unemployment or inactivity but also the fact that many of those who have a job are in very low productivity, very low-quality jobs. Citizens are becoming frustrated and impatient. What can be done in the short-run?
It is widely accepted that investments in infrastructure can lead to direct and indirect jobs, and usually have spillover effects into other economic opportunities. For example, good transport systems and agro-logistics services help move freight from farms to locations where value can be added (like intermediate processing, packaging and sorting of agricultural produce) and ultimately to consumers. However, the anticipated benefits of these investments are not always fully realized, or sometimes they happen much later. How can investments in infrastructure have a multiplier effect in stimulating the economy and, eventually, facilitate job creation?
To maximize their impact, infrastructure projects should explicitly analyze and include complementary investments (e.g., industrial parks or processing facilities) and soft interventions (financial services, ICT, laws and regulations, etc.) needed to unlock the potential of new markets. As part of a broader effort to link investment in rural roads to economic opportunities, the Roads to Jobs study analyzed strategic value chains in the agriculture sector in Rajasthan, India, to better understand the challenges faced by farmers in accessing markets and provided recommendations to address constraints.
Creating more and better jobs is central to our work at the World Bank and a shared goal for virtually all countries —developed and developing alike. But oftentimes the policy debate turns to the cost and effectiveness of programs and projects in creating jobs.
As an example, I recently found myself in the middle of a discussion regarding a development project aimed at creating employment: one of the reviewers objected given that the cost per job created was too high. “More than $20,000 per job,” he said, comparing it to much lower numbers (between $500 and $3,000 per job) usually associated with active labor market programs such as training, job search assistance, wage subsidies, or public works.
But what is the rationale behind these numbers?