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Competitive cities for jobs, growth, poverty reduction and shared prosperity?

Soraya Goga's picture
Photo by ecuadorpostales via Shutterstock

We are all aware of the statistics: cities are home to more than 50% of the world’s population, and they are growing so fast that 66 out of 100 people on earth will be urban dwellers by 2050. This, of course, will have major implications for people and poverty, climate change, and service delivery.
But did you also know that cities are the key drivers of global and national economic growth?
Currently, cities generate more than 80% of global GDP. Since the early 2000s, three-quarters of the world’s 750 largest cities have grown faster than their national economies. One of the key reasons for those cities’ success is higher productivity—as a result of their ability to attract skilled workers—as well as a high concentration of productive entrepreneurs and firms.
For decades, national and city leaders have also taken actions to build competitive cities, increasingly facilitating firms and industries to create jobs, raise productivity, and increase incomes over time—especially for the urban poor. They see this as the pathway to eliminate extreme poverty and to promote shared prosperity. This is particularly important in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, where most of the world’s extreme poor live.

The great escape, out of fragility: jobs

Dani Clark's picture

 Why Jobs are Key, World Bank Live.

Yes, there are approximately 65 million refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people worldwide. Yes, conflicts continue unabated, producing inordinate human misery. Yes, we urgently need political solutions.

But there is growing consensus that creating jobs so people can work—wherever they are—is key to escaping fragility and preventing further conflict. And it’s what we need to focus on right now, experts and policymakers agreed at the “Overcoming Fragility: Why Jobs Are Key” event on Friday during the World Bank-IMF Annual Meetings in Washington, DC.

Toward a “New Urban Agenda”: Join the World Bank at Habitat III in Quito

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Cities are home to more than half of the world’s population, consume two-thirds of the world’s energy, and produce 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions. And this trend will only continue: by 2050, 66% of the 10 billion people living on earth will be urban dwellers.
As we mark World Habitat Day, these numbers remind us of a serious fact: while rapid urbanization brings tremendous opportunities for growth and prosperity, it has also posed unprecedented challenges to our cities—and the people who live in them.

Chief among these challenges is meeting fast-growing demand for infrastructure and basic services such as affordable housing and well-connected transport systems, as well as jobs—especially for the nearly one billion urban poor who are disproportionately affected by climate change and adverse socioeconomic conditions.

So, what will it take to build inclusive, resilient, productive, and livable cities?


SDGs Made with Code: Giving women and girls the power to change the world

Mariana Dahan's picture
Increasingly more aspects in our lives are powered by technology, yet women aren’t represented in the roles that create this technology. In many places there are barriers to simply using technology, let alone, creating it. Women in India and Egypt are six times more likely than women in Uganda to say that internet use is not considered appropriate for them, and that their friends or family may disapprove. Learning to create with technology opens up opportunities for women to express themselves, have the ideas heard and contribute to shaping our future. Even though there’s so much more we need to do, we’re inspired to see the movement around the world to break down these barriers and start contributing their voices to the field of technology.

We recently met Mariana Costa from Laboratoria – a nonprofit that empowers young women by providing them access to the digital sector. In the next three years Laboratoria will train more than 10,000 young women as coders. This tech social enterprise located in Peru, Mexico and Chile, helps young women - who have not previously had access to quality education – enroll in an immersive five-month training program at Laboratoria’s Code Academy, where students achieve an intermediate level on the most common web development languages and tools. Their technical development is complemented with a personal development program that helps them build the soft skills needed to perform well at work. Successful graduates also receive mentoring and job placement and are usually able to pay-back the cost of the course during their first two years of employment. Most of the time, these young girls are the only breadwinners in their households.

Djibouti: Where forced displacement and migration meet

Varalakshmi Vemuru's picture
Also available in: Español
In the context of the upcoming UN High Level Meeting on Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants, this blog offers a field-level perspective from Djibouti on refugee and migrant movements. To prepare the Development Response to Displacement Impacts Project, I visited the Ali Addeh refugee camp in Ali Sabieh region, which has been hosting predominantly Somali refugees for over two decades now, and Obock town, which is hosting Yemeni refugees in Merkazi refugee camp following the 2015 crisis, and Horn of Africa migrants in town.  
At Ali Addeh, we were confronted with two startling realities. The first was that consequent droughts had led to a depletion in the livestock ownership of local host pastoralist populations. This left them more vulnerable and impoverished than the refugees in the camps. A refugee woman, fetching fuel wood, emphasized that local host communities needed urgent development support and interventions.
The port of Obock, where the journey begins. (Photo: Benjamin Burckhart)
The second reality was the near absence of the age group of 16-30 year olds, both boys/men and girls/women, in both the refugee camp and among host communities. Discussions revealed that this group saw limited economic opportunities in the local environment and had moved to the capital city pursuing low skilled informal jobs with low remuneration. When we tracked these youth, we found that many were stranded in "Balbala," a shanty town adjoining Djiboutiville, the capital city. Poor skills and lack of resources had left them more vulnerable than before. Some of course had made an onward journey to Obock to explore a journey to the Middle East and Europe.

A visit to Obock town in Djibouti brought to fore another stark reality but this time at the regional level of the Horn of Africa (HOA). In 2015 nearly 100,000 people – nationals from the different HOA countries and inhabitants of refugee camps in the region – had traversed the harsh Djiboutian terrain, where deaths by dehydration is common, to reach Obock. The town is considered the gateway to Middle Eastern countries with Yemen being the first and closest destination.

Consultations with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), local government staff, local community members and migrants themselves, revealed to us that despite the conflict in Yemen and the reverse movement of people into Djibouti, there wasn’t a significant drop in the number of youth attempting the onward journey. The only thing that had changed was the time it took for these migrants to leave the Djiboutian shores for Yemen – the increased cost of the boat ride across the Bab el Mandeb Strait linking the Horn of Africa to the Arabian Peninsula – had resulted in migrants working odd jobs in Obock to put together this additional money.

A visit to IOM’s Migration Response Center brought us face to face with a number of migrants. Some were undergoing medical treatment for injuries sustained and/or diseases contracted either during the journey to Djibouti, or
IOM Migration Response Center in Obock. (Photo: Benjamin Burckhart)
while in Yemen and caught in the conflict. Over 3,300 African migrants have died since 2006, through unsuccessful efforts at crossing into Yemen across treacherous waters. Others were awaiting the processing of their papers to be sent back to countries and communities of their origin. There was essentially an assemblage of battered bodies and broken spirits.
For us, the situation brought into sharp focus the debate at the global, regional and national levels on delineating the causes and consequences of forced displacement versus voluntary and involuntary migration for the HOA. In Djibouti, there are various patterns of movement. Internal displacement of Djiboutians moving from rural to urban areas is attributed to droughts. Youth, both refugees and locals, are moving from underdeveloped regions of Djibouti to cities in search of better lives and economic opportunities. Movement of people especially youth from Djibouti and other HOA countries to the Middle East via Obock and Yemen is motivated by again, the search for a better life.

These movements within and through Djibouti, regardless of whether it is considered forced displacement as the result of conflict and persecution, or migration have more commonalities than differences in terms of costs – the hardships faced by those attempting these movements; the vulnerability to physical, sexual and psychological exploitation; trauma, disease and death; and shattered dreams and broken spirits. The commonalities also extend to solutions – investments in countries and regions to enhance opportunities for social and economic well-being for local communities, especially the youth, and efforts to enhance skills and competencies to enable safer and facilitated migration to mitigate the vulnerability.

The specific case of Djibouti, that is one among many others, therefore exemplifies the crossing of and even the merging of forced displacement and migration paths over time. The motivation for the refugees and migrants to move, and routes used are similar, with refugees from Ali Addeh becoming economic migrants by moving out of Djibouti, their first country of asylum.

These realities from the ground demand a pause and reflection on what sustainable and durable solutions can be proposed, as we work to strengthen collaboration between development partners, humanitarian agencies, country governments and regional organizations.

The next generation of African scientists need a more sustainable career path

Rama George-Alleyne's picture
A professor teaching cell biology and biochemistry at a university in Africa. (Stephan Gladieu / World Bank)

Happy UN Day for South –South Cooperation!
Investment in skills is vital to economic growth and competitiveness and poverty reduction. I believe that there is no better way to do that than to educate young graduates with expertise in high-demand areas to help grow African economies, create jobs, and support research.

Quality education needed to boost women’s economic empowerment

Keiko Inoue's picture
Better educated women secure brighter futures for themselves and lift entire households out of poverty.

While Hillary Clinton is cracking the glass ceiling, if not yet shattering it entirely, in the United States by becoming the first female presidential nominee of a major political party, recent analysis on U.S. women in the workforce presents a more sobering finding.

Our top picks for summer reading on jobs and development

Nicholas Charles Lord's picture
The town of Mafraq in the north of Jordan had 90,000 inhabitants before the Syrian crisis, with the influx of refugees its population has swelled to 200,000. Photo: William Stebbins / World Bank

We have curated the following articles and papers for summer reading. They highlight the ongoing coverage of the impact of technology and jobs, the need for new sets of skills relevant to the digital economy, the need for refugees to find work quickly and the global imperative for creating good jobs in Africa.

Pathways to Prosperity: An e-Symposium

Martin Rama's picture


Blog 12: Key lessons on road to sharing prosperity

India is home to the largest number of poor people in the world, as well as the largest number of people who have recently escaped poverty. Over the last few weeks, this blog series has highlighted research from the World Bank and its partners on what has driven poverty reduction, what still stands in the way of progress, and the road to a more prosperous India.

This is the last blog in the
#Pathways2Prosperity series. You can read all the blogs in this series and keep contributing to the discussion around #WhatWillItTake to #EndPoverty in India.

A thorough review of India’s experience in reducing poverty over the last two decades confirmed some of our previous understanding, but it also revealed new, unexpected insights. On the confirmation side, we found that poverty in India, as in other parts of the world, is associated with a lack of assets at the household level, and especially with limited human capital.

At the national level, 45 percent of India’s poor are illiterate, whereas another 25 percent have a primary education at most. Further down several Indian states, including a few high-income ones, show stunting and underweight rates that are worse than the averages for sub-Saharan Africa. While multiple factors lie at the root of the nutrition challenge, the prevalence of diarrheal disease is thought to be one of the main culprits, and diarrhea is triggered by poor hygiene. Only 6 percent of India’s poor have tap water at home, and a little more than a fifth have a latrine or some form of improved sanitation.

From this perspective, investing in education, health and the delivery of basic services for India’s most disadvantaged people remains a key priority. Investments of this sort would enhance the human capital of the poor, hence increase their chances to prosper.

Youth paving the road to 2030

Nicole Goldin's picture
Students from University of Ghana. Photo: World Bank

Chandni is a 20 year old Bangladeshi young woman with big dreams. She dropped out of school to care for her family, including her unemployed brother.  Without childcare, reliable transportation or affordable internet, she isn’t able to enroll in supplemental courses.  Without an education or skills, she can’t find decent work and is caught in a vicious cycle of generational poverty.