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Four examples of cutting-edge research on labor topics

Esteve Sala's picture
One of the topics of the 30 research papers is female labor in Latin American countries. (Photo: Charlotte Kesl / World Bank)

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.

Youth employment in low-income countries: What works?



Distinguished development economist, Louise Fox (USAID), provided an in-depth analysis of achievements and failures of development interventions for youth employment. According to Fox, many of these programs are failing because they do not meet the needs of youth.  Fox recommends rethinking young people’s pathways towards sustainable livelihood and employment.  She further recommends paying attention to issues faced by young people in rural areas, small towns and tertiary cities - in part because, this is where most young people live.

Female labor: Bridging gender gaps in Latin America?



Guillermo Cruces, of the Center for Distributive, Labor and Social Studies (CEDLAS) presented key findings from his research using a dataset with information on roughly 20 million people in 18 Latin American countries. The study focused on the decline of female labor participation after 2001. Cruces and his team explained how expansion of childcare centers, parental leaves, and more flexible work arrangements can support women entering the labor markets.

Informality: Workers value stability



What aspects of formal jobs do workers really value? That’s the question addressed by Shanthi Nataraj (RAND) and her team with a choice experiment in Bangladesh. Two thousand workers chose between different sets of hypothetical jobs offering different types of formal-employment benefits. The findings conclude that workers value job stability (in terms of a written contract, or a termination notice) over social protection and other benefits.

Using technology to measure migration


How do social networks influence a person's decision to migrate? To answer this complex question, Joshua E. Blumenstock (University of Washington) reconstructed migration trajectories for roughly one million individuals by using an extensive dataset with four years of mobile phone calls in Rwanda. The research findings conclude that people are more likely to migrate to places where they have tight social networks.

The World Bank, the Multi-donorJobs Trust Fund on Jobs, IZA and UK’s Department for International Development (/DFID), funded over 30 projects covering a wide range of research methodologies, countries, and substantive topics, supported many of the papers presented at the conference.

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