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Retrofitting: A housing policy that saves lives

Luis Triveno's picture
Building earthquake-resistant housing in Peru. Photo: USAID/OFDA, Auriana Koutnik/Flickr
When a hurricane, earthquake or other natural disaster strikes a poor country, families too often suffer a double tragedy: the loss of loved ones and their most valuable (and sometimes only) asset, their home. In the aftermath of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti in 2010, which killed more than 260,000 people, 70% of asset losses were related to housing. Ecuador faces billions of dollars in reconstruction costs from last April’s 7.8 earthquake, which killed 900 and injured almost 28,000. If Peru were hit by an 8.0-degree earthquake, an estimated 80% of potential economic losses would involve housing.
And while nature’s fury does not distinguish between urban and rural areas, a large majority of disaster losses are concentrated in cities, where they disproportionately affect the poor. This creates a great challenge for low and middle-income countries.  In Latin America and the Caribbean, 200 million people—1/3 of the population—live in informal settlements, where most dwellings don’t comply with construction codes and home insurance is non-existent. Perhaps unsurprisingly, LAC’s informal districts also account for the majority of disaster-related deaths in the region.
Yet housing policies aimed at the poor tend to focus on supporting the construction of new units instead of retrofitting existing homes to make them safer—ignoring the fact that it is mostly buildings, not earthquakes, that kill people. As a result, the deficit in housing quality is still disturbingly high: millions of families remain exposed not just to disaster risk but also to high crime rates, eviction, poor housing conditions, as well as lack of access to basic services, healthcare, schools, and job opportunities.
To address these issues, countries will need to tackle the housing challenge from two different but complementary angles: they have to find ways of upgrading the existing housing stock, where the majority of the poor live, while making sure that new constructions comply with building regulations. After all, if floods or earthquakes do not distinguish between old or new homes, why should policy-makers? It is time for resilience to become part of the definition of “decent, affordable housing.”

One Part of Something Bigger

Israel Mallett's picture

It has been almost four years since I first became involved with the regional public-private dialogue initiative, the Caribbean Growth Forum (CGF). In June 2012, I walked into the conference room at University of the West Indies,  Mona Campus for the Launch of the first phase of the initiative and there was something electric in the air. It was new and fresh, but old fears lingered; was this to become 'just another regional talk-shop?'

Wide-eyed and optimistic I was determined that for my small part it wouldn't turn out that way.

Why school enrollment is not enough: A look inside Haiti’s classrooms

Juan Baron's picture
This page in: Haitian Kreyol
Students reading in class. Photo: ©World Bank

In Haiti, about 90% of primary school-aged children are enrolled in school.  While still falling short of universal enrollment, this is a big improvement over just two decades ago.  But enrollment is just the first step in building human capital – many children will repeat a grade, and about half will drop out before completing primary school, leaving the school system without having mastered even basic language and math skills.  Why does participation in school produce so little?

How we’re fighting conflict and fragility where poverty is deepest

Sri Mulyani Indrawati's picture

View from cave, Mali. © Curt Carnemark/World Bank

For the first time in history, the number of people living in extreme poverty has fallen below 10%. The world has never been as ambitious about development as it is today. After adopting the Sustainable Development Goals and signing the Paris climate deal at the end of 2015, the global community is now looking into the best and most effective ways of reaching these milestones. In this five-part series I will discuss what the World Bank Group is doing and what we are planning to do in key areas that are critical for ending poverty by 2030:
good governance, gender equality, conflict and fragility, creating jobs, and, finally, preventing and adapting to climate change.
By 2030, more than half of the world’s poorest people will live in very poor countries that are fragile, affected by conflict, or experience high levels of violence
These are places where governments cannot adequately provide even basic services and security, where economic activity is paralyzed and where development is the most difficult.  It is also where poverty is deepest. The problems these countries face don’t respect borders. About half of the world’s 20 million refugees are from poor countries. Many more are displaced within their own country.

Free, French course on PPPs offers customized case studies, relevant regional perspectives

Olivier Fremond's picture
Free, French course on PPPs

As a former country manager in Benin, my team and I advised the national administration on the Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) Project Law then under consideration and engaged in PPPs. This effort took place after the private sector, both domestic and international, made a strong commitment to finance large infrastructure programs. Timing is everything, of course, and the window for passing the legislation through parliament before legislative elections was tight – ultimately, too tight. A better understanding of PPPs and the options these partnerships can offer to a country like Benin, which needs substantial infrastructure investments, would have helped the process tremendously.

At the time, however, PPP educational options for French speakers were scarce. Although plenty of PPP resources exist in English, many fewer tools are available for Francophone African countries. These tools are critical to understanding PPPs, creating and adopting legislation, applying PPPs when they may serve a need, and knowing when not to use them to secure infrastructure services.

Latin America: Is There Hope for Prosperity After the Commodity Price Boom?

Katia Vostroknutova's picture

This blog was previously published in The World Post.

Talk about ‘growth’ in Latin America has become less upbeat today than a few years ago. That’s no surprise. For over a decade, average growth meant at least double the economic activity that we are seeing today. 

After the Adolescent Girls Initiative: Recommendations for Future Research

Sarah Haddock's picture
The Adolescent Girls Initiative (AGI) pilots taught us a great deal about how to make skills training more female-friendly and how to improve the quality of skills training broadly. They also highlighted new questions for the next generation of skills training projects to answer.

Five of the eight AGI pilots were able to successfully embed a rigorous impact evaluation design. We also had a centralized research team that ensured standardization of the research objectives and methods as much as possible. You can access the papers from the individual pilots on our website, and you can download useful documents such as our evaluation concept notes, list of core indicators, and survey instrument in our Resource Guide.

Here are some key recommendations for further research:

Unbundle evaluation designs and provide cost-benefit information by project component. AGI evaluations weren’t able to compare the relative impact of technical training versus life skills training or measure the impacts of specific project strategies, such as mentoring or placement assistance. Similarly, we can say very little about disaggregated costs of these components.

Have a cash-only evaluation arm. Youth employment interventions of all kinds are under pressure to demonstrate that their impacts are larger than what could be achieved through giving cash directly. See, for example, this relevant blog post from Chris Blattman. As part of this agenda we also need to understand the differential impacts of cash provision on young men and women.

Determine the optimal composition, intensity, and delivery of different mixes of skills. This is particularly true for life skills training, which tends to be much more heterogeneous across contexts and is far less expensive to implement than technical or business skills. Related questions around the appropriate age to focus on different types of skills and whether training works better in sex-segregated classrooms will aid in designing the next generation of youth employment programs.

Test strategies for job placement. Progress has been made in improving the delivery of skills training and in helping youth start businesses, but much less is known about how to cost-effectively assist youth to find and retain wage jobs. Interventionssome implemented in AGI pilotsthat deserve more testing include:
  • Variations in the length and intensity of job placement support: Most AGI interventions  included three to five months of placement support;
  • Performance-based contracts for the training providers, as used in both the Liberia and Nepal AGI pilots, though these have not been tested rigorously;
  • Wage subsidies, as tested among young female community college graduates in the Jordan AGI, which achieved significant short-term gains but no long-term impact;
  • Partnerships with large firms to create custom training programs.
Find ways to reduce occupational segregation. Few interventions have tackled the issue of occupational segregation head-on. Studies from the World Bank Group Africa Gender Innovation Lab show that lack of information is indeed a constraint that prevents women from crossing over into male-dominated fields, and that having a male mentor seems to help women make this transition. However, the only randomized controlled trial we are aware of, involving an informational intervention in Kenya, was unsuccessful in increasing women’s engagement in male-dominated trades. We need to learn how to break occupational segregation while minimizing women’s exposure to harassment, social isolation, and other risks. One approach to test is the encouragement of women to enter non-traditional trades in groups, as in the Liberia and Rwanda AGIs. Research is also needed on how to induce young women to enter new industries in which no clear gender assignment has yet been made, as in the business process outsourcing industry in India.

Untangle the relationships between young women’s labor and health outcomes. The AGIs in Liberia and Nepal, using a technical and vocational education and training (TVET) model, did not have significant impacts on sexual behaviors or health outcomes, while the Uganda girls' club-based approach dramatically lowered fertility and increased condom use. One distinguishing factor about the Uganda project was that it worked with younger girls, starting at age 14. Another important question to answer is whether there is an optimal age threshold or whether there are other conditions under which skills training projects can affect sexual behaviors.

Taking On gender norms to empower women

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
All societies are guided by a certain number of rules - formal or not, written or unwritten, that define how members of the community are expected to behave, how they should interact with each other, what is acceptable or not. These so-called “social norms” permeate many aspects of our lives. They are often so deeply-entrenched that individuals may have a hard time distinguishing norms imposed upon them by society from their own individual preferences.
Gender relations are one aspect of our lives where the role and impact of social norms are particularly obvious. Even today, gender roles and stereotypes continue to exert significant influence over the way men and women behave, and how they interact with each other.
That is why it is critical for us to acknowledge, understand, and, if necessary, challenge existing social norms when designing and implementing projects that are meant to improve the lives of women. From reducing fertility rates in Bangladesh to combating gender-based violence in Haiti, Senior Social Development Specialist Maria Beatriz Orlando gives us examples of World Bank projects that effectively empowered women by addressing the reality of gender norms on the ground.

Improving the quality of skills training: What the Adolescent Girls Initiative pilots can teach us

Sarah Haddock's picture

The Adolescent Girls Initiative (AGI) through its eight pilots taught us a great deal about how to make skills training more female-friendly and support young women's transition to productive employment. In addition to all the lessons we learned about working with young women, the pilots also taught us a lot about how to improve the overall quality of skills training.

Our Top 5 quality enhancement lessons, along with links to more information, can be found online in our Resource Guide and here:

Lesson 1: Skills training projects need to set realistic expectations for self-employment versus wage employment. In contexts with limited opportunities for wage employment, skills training projects should help orient youth to the likelihood of self-employment and develop content suitable to different levels of aspiration in that sphere. In Liberia, for example, we offered a job skills track and a business skills track. We ended up having to gradually reduce the size of the job skills track from 35 percent of trainees in Round 1 to just 18 percent in Round 3 after our impact evaluation showed the employment rate in the business skills track was much stronger. This wasn’t easy—it involved changing the orientation of the client, the training providers, and the girls themselves.  

Lesson 2: Involving the private sector can improve the market relevance and overall effectiveness of training. AGI pilots partnered with the private sector in the implementation arrangements by hiring private companies to provide training tailored to the needs of a specific firm/sector—as in the Rwanda AGI—and by hiring private sector training and employment service companies to deliver training and assist with job placement—as in Haiti, Liberia, and Nepal. We also took low-cost steps to engage the private sector throughout implementation. For example, the Liberia AGI organized Private Sector Working Groups to provide routine guidance on project activities and enlisted members of the private sector to inspire the trainees by serving as guest speakers in the classroom.

Lesson 3: Post-training support is critical and must be planned and budgeted for early on. Even Getting the training up and running always seems like priority number one, but over the course of implementing the AGI pilots we learned that we needed to do a better job planning and budgeting for more structured and intensive post-training support from the very beginning of each project. The AGI pilots provided three to six months of post-training job placement assistance—such as internships, job search coaching, and so on—or business advisory services—such as business mentoring and check-ins, linkages to micro-franchises and business capital, etc. The exact balance of classroom training versus placement support hasn’t been rigorously tested, but our experience suggests this support can really help trainees put their new skills to use in the labor market. An extended follow-up period may be particularly important for young women just entering the labor market or breaking into non-traditional trades.

Lesson 4: Improving the monitoring and verification of employment outcomes is essential if we want to improve employment outcomes in skills training projects. Many projects don’t monitor attendance or performance during training, let alone keep track of participants after training ends. AGI pilots monitored business and job performance and verified employment outcomes up to six months after classroom training ended. The pilots relied on self-reporting by service providers, then verified these claims among a random sample of trainees (about 25 percent) by talking with employers, local women, and community members, and by accessing the trainee’s business records. The percentage of employed youth in the sample was then extrapolated to the population that the training provider claimed to be employed. In Liberia and Nepal, where pilots implemented results-based contracts, this extrapolation was used as a basis for the final payment. Any inaccurate claims by training providers proportionally reduced their payment and could jeopardize eligibility for future rounds of training. In the Resource Guide, you can download the employment/business verification strategy from the Liberia AGI, as well as tools for monitoring and placement verification.

Lesson 5: Performance-based incentives are operationally feasible—even in fragile settings—and seem to improve outcomes, though this is an area for more rigorous testing. We used results-based contracts for training providers in the relatively small program in Liberia, targeting 2,500 young women, as well as in the Nepal AGI, which was embedded in a larger program that trains 15,000 youth annually. Both projects achieved impressive results and we hypothesize that the performance incentives for the service providers accounts for this in part.

A forthcoming and final blog in this series will address recommendations for future learning and research from the AGI.

Making skills training female-friendly: What pilots from the Adolescent Girls Initiative can teach us

Sarah Haddock's picture
The global jobs crisis has fueled interest globally in how to improve the quality of skills training programs to prepare people for productive employment. The Adolescent Girls Initiative (AGI) has some of the best results to-date among skills training projects that have been rigorously evaluated, so it makes sense to ask what made these pilots successful.

From 2008-2015, we implemented pilots in eight countries, with the aim of supporting young women’s transition to productive employment. The AGI marked the Bank’s first experience working with this population—adolescent girls and young women—on this topic—skills and employment. We learned a great deal lot along the way, which we have collated in an online Resource Guide to share with other teams.

Two models

We tested two main program models—a classroom-based Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) model that delivered job and business skills plus life skills, and a Girls’ Club model that delivered life skills and short livelihood trainings in community-based safe space clubs. Both significantly impacted economic outcomes for young women, though the Girls’ Club model was far less expensive.

In Liberia, for example, the Economic Empowerment of Adolescent Girls and Young Women (EPAG) project—a TVET, classroom-based program—increased participants' employment by 47 percent and earnings by 80 percent. In Uganda, meanwhile, the Girl's Club program raised the likelihood of girls’ engagement in income-generating activities by 35 percent and had large impacts on risky sexual behaviors and the girls’ experience of violence.

A recent meta-analysis of Active Labor Market Policies (ALMPs) suggests that average program effects tend to be larger for females, and that training and other human capital interventions are particularly effective among women. This suggests that both AGI models—classroom-based vocational training and community-based Girls' Club training—should continue to be implemented and tested across a variety of settings.

Lessons learned

So what made the AGI projects effective for young women?

First, AGI worked hard to get girls into the projects and to keep them there—which is challenging in itself, especially for younger girls. We know that attrition from training programs is high, but we don’t really know the magnitude of the problem because so many projects don’t monitor or report individual attendance. When projects do report attrition and disaggregate by sex, they often find young women drop out more than young men and for different reasons. AGI pilots were able to successfully recruit young women and maintained completion rates above 90 percent.

Here are some of the steps AGIs took to recruit young women and retain them: Another key female-friendly feature of AGI projects was their explicit aim to steer women towards more profitable trades. By default, many skills training programs channel young women into traditionally female fields that are often less lucrative and less secure. Breaking down job segregation isn’t easy, but it is possible—and should, arguably, be an objective of projects aimed at improving economic outcomes for women.

Providing girls with accurate information about the returns to various male- and female-dominated trades is a first step. An experiment in Kenya provided such information and was able to get young women to sign up for training in male-dominated trades, but later on they were no more likely to complete training or pursue work in those trades than young women who had not received the information.

Qualitative work in Uganda among women who successfully "crossed over" into male-dominated fields found the presence of male role models early in a young woman’s career was an important factor, suggesting further that information alone isn’t enough.

Here are some things AGIs did to break occupational segregation:
  • Conducted local labor market assessments that intentionally explored market demand in non-traditional trades for women;
  • Included an orientation period to educate participants about their training options;
  • Encouraged women to enter non-traditional trades in groups;
  • Supported participants with mentors, other role models from the community, and careful monitoring for potential unintended consequences.

So what’s the bottom line?

Being intentional about designing and implementing projects that work well for young women requires more planning and resources up front, but the results are impressive—making the investment worthwhile. A single program doesn’t have to do it all—strategies for making training female-friendly need to make sense in the local context.

Forthcoming blogs will explore broader "good practice" lessons from the AGI—not specific to young women—and highlight recommendations for future research and learning.