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Labor and Social Protection

Cities: The new frontier of social protection

Keith Hansen's picture
photo: Dominic Chavez/World Bank

​Consider this: By the time you had breakfast this morning, the world’s urban population grew by some 15,000 people. This number will increase to 180,000 people by the end of the day and to 1.3 million by the end of the week. On a planet with such a vast amount of space, this pace of urbanization is like crowding all of humanity into a country the size of France.

Cities are where most of the world’s population lives, where more and more of population growth will occur, and where most poverty will soon be located. 

But why do so many people choose cities? Poor people constantly pour into Rio de Janeiro and Nairobi and Mumbai in search of something better. The poorest people who come to cities from other places aren’t irrational or mistaken. They flock to urban areas because cities offer advantages they couldn’t find elsewhere.  The poverty rate among recent arrivals to big cities is higher than the poverty rate of long-term residents, which suggests that, over time, city dwellers’ fortunes can improve considerably.

Madagascar: Expanding the bandwidth of the extreme poor

Andrea Vermehren's picture
​Photo: Laura B. Rawlings / World Bank


It is 8 AM. The winter sun begins to appear over the gray-green mass of trees above the village of Tritriva in Madagascar’s central highlands. The courtyard of a stone church is already filled with women, many holding still-sleeping children in their arms. They have assembled for the first time in two months to receive a cash payment from the Malagasy state.

The women are poor and all live on less than $2 per day. The money they receive from the government amounts to about a third of their cash income for the two months in between each payment: it will go a long way in helping them support their families for the rest of the winter.
 
Initiated by the Madagascar government,  with support from the World Bank, the payments are part of a new program implemented by the Fonds d'Intervention pour le Développement (FID) to combat poverty in rural Madagascar and provide sustainable pathways to human development.

Making cities competitive – What will it take?

Megha Mukim's picture



Cities are the future. They are where people live and work. They are where growth happens and where innovation takes place. But they are also poles of poverty and, much too often, centers of unemployment.

How can we unleash the potential of cities? How do we make them more competitive? These are urgent questions. Questions, as it turns out, with complex answers – that could potentially have huge returns for job creation and poverty reduction.

Cities vary enormously when it comes to their economic performance. While 72 percent of cities grow faster than their countries, these benefits do not happen uniformly across all cities. The top 10 percent of cities increase GDP almost three times more than the remaining 90 percent. They create jobs four to five times faster. Their residents enjoy higher incomes and productivity, and they are magnets for external investment.
 
We’re not just talking about the “household names”among global cities: Competitive cities are often secondary cities, many of them exhibiting success amidst adversity – some landlocked and in lagging regions within their countries. For instance, Saltillo (Mexico), Meknes (Morocco), Coimbatore (India), Gaziantep (Turkey), Bucaramanga (Colombia), and Onitsha (Nigeria) are a few examples of cities that have been competitive in the last decade.
 
So how do cities become competitive? We define competitive cities as those that successfully help firms and industries create jobs, raise productivity and increase the incomes of citizens. A team at the World Bank Group spent the last 18 months investigating, creating and updating our knowledge base for the benefit of WBG’s clients. In our forthcoming report, “Competitive Cities for Jobs and Growth,”* we find that the recipe includes several basic ingredients.

In the long term, cities moving up the income ladder will transform their economies, changing from “market towns” to “production centers” to “financial and creative centers,” increasing efficiencies and productivity at each stage. But economic data clearly shows there are large gains to be had even without full-scale economic transformation: Cities can move from $2,500 to $20,000 in per capita income while still remaining a “production center.”  In such cases, cities become more competitive at what they already do, finding niche products and markets in tradable goods and services. Competitive cities are those that manage to attract new firms and investors, while still nurturing established businesses and longtime residents. 
 
What sort of policies do competitive cities use? We find that leading cities focus their energies on leveraging both economy-wide and sector-specific policies. In practice, we see how successful cities create a favorable business climate and target individual sectors for pro-active economic development initiatives. They use a combination of policies focused on cross-cutting issues such as land, capital markets and infrastructure, while not losing focus on the needs of different industries and firms. The crucial factor is consultation, collaboration and partnerships with the private sector. In fact, success also involves building coalitions for growth with neighbors and other tiers of government.

In Lima, inequality debate focuses on women, youth, and taxes

Donna Barne's picture
Paraisopolis, São Paulo, Brazil. © Tuca Vieira


​Can we end extreme poverty in a world with extreme inequality? That question inspired a spirited debate in English and Spanish on Oct. 7, just ahead of the World Bank Group-IMF Annual Meetings in Lima, Peru, addressing corruption, taxation, discrimination against women, and the need to even the playing field for the younger generation.

Latin America’s experience with inequality was front and center at the live-streamed event, Inequality, Opportunity, and Prosperity, featuring World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, Ibero-American Secretary General Rebeca Grynspan, Oxfam International Chair Juan Alberto Fuentes Knight,  and moderated by CNN Español news anchor Patricia Janiot.

Message for Latin America: Protect social gains and jobs amid slowdown

Donna Barne's picture

The economic slowdown in Latin America and the Caribbean is putting pressure on workers and wages and forcing some people out of the labor force, according to a new report released during a live-streamed event of the same name, “Jobs, Wages, and the Latin American Slowdown,” in the lead-up to the World Bank Group-IMF Annual Meetings in Peru.

“A lot of women joined the labor force in the good times. Now, in the slowdown, people are exiting the labor force — men and youth with little education. This is good news if they’re going to university, but bad if they’re going to live with their parents and be idle,” said Augusto de la Torre, the World Bank’s chief economist for Latin America and the Caribbean.

Moreover, the “exit of youth from the labor force will affect poor families more than wealthier ones – inequality could become greater,” said de la Torre.

Sustainable Development Goals and Open Data

Joel Gurin's picture
Sustainable Development Goals. Source: http://sustainabledevelopment.un.org

The United Nations (UN) has developed a set of action-oriented goals to achieve global sustainable development by 2030. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were developed by an Open Working Group of 30 member states over a two-year process. They are designed to balance the three dimensions of sustainable development: the economic, social and environmental.

To help meet the goals, UN member states can draw on Open Data from governments that is, data that is freely available online for anyone to use and republish for any purpose. This kind of data is essential both to help achieve the SDGs and to measure progress in meeting them.
 
Achieving the SDGs
Open Data can help achieve the SDGs by providing critical information on natural resources, government operations, public services, and population demographics. These insights can inform national priorities and help determine the most effective paths for action on national issues. Open Data is a key resource for:
  • Fostering economic growth and job creation. Open Data can help launch new businesses, optimizing existing companies’ operations, and improve the climate for foreign investment. It can also make the job market more efficient and serve as a resource in training for critical technological job skills.

Heading to #UNGA? Read how to make the #SDGs a success

Mariana Dahan's picture


As you are on your way to UN General Assembly for the official launch of the SDGs, read this: approximately 2.4 billion people in the world today lack official identification (ID), including children up to the age of 14 whose birth has never been registered and many women in poor rural areas of Africa and Asia.

Being able to prove one’s identity is more than a convenience; it is based on fundamental human rights and extending it to the disenfranchised is also instrumental in achieving many of the other SDGs. SDG 16.9 aims to “provide legal identity to all, including birth registration, by 2030,” and represents the first time that documenting identity has been officially stated as a global goal. The international community should join forces to achieve this goal, as attaining it will also be a key enabler of many other SDGs.

Did we get the ‘old-age dependency’ of aging countries all wrong?

Johannes Koettl's picture
Photo by Brookings

We have all seen the numbers before: Over the coming decades, many countries in the developed and developing world alike will significantly age. One particular number to describe this development is the “old-age dependency ratio.” It measures the number of those aged above 65 years (currently defined as old age) as a share of those between 15 to 64 years (currently defined as working age). In other words, this ratio tells us how many retired people a potential worker has to sustain. With global aging, it will deteriorate dramatically in most countries over the coming decades. This raises serious concerns about the sustainability of pension systems.

Partnerships and opportunities for digital jobs

Saori Imaizumi's picture

Also available in: Español | Français | العربية


What are ‘digital jobs’? If you have access to a computer, Internet and online or mobile payment, can you get a job? The answer is yes, but having basic literacy and computer skills are essential. Knowledge of English is also a big plus.  
Earlier this year, the World Bank and the Rockefeller Foundation organized a “Digital Jobs Africa Forum” to discuss the potential of digital jobs in creating employment in Africa.
 
Digital Jobs Africa is a seven-year, US$100 million dollar initiative of the Rockefeller Foundation that seeks to impact the lives of one million people in six African countries (South Africa, Kenya, and Nigeria, Ghana, Morocco, and Egypt) by catalyzing ICT-enabled employment and skills training for high-potential African youth who would not otherwise have access to sustainable employment. Launched in 2013, the initiative works in close partnership with stakeholders from the private sector, government, civil society, and the development community.
 
In partnership with the Digital Jobs Africa Initiative, the World Bank has undertaken a number of activities to increase and enhance opportunities for digital job creation in Africa, including development of an information technology (IT) park in Ghana, capacity building for digitization of public records, and online work/microwork awareness building and training in Nigeria. Recently, the global online outsourcing study was also released to analyze the holistic picture of rapidly growing online outsourcing market (please visit www.ictforjobs.org for more information).
 
These successful collaborations have resulted in a renewed commitment to a strengthened partnership between the Rockefeller Foundation and the World Bank on the digital jobs agenda to develop skills for youth, as well as to create digital jobs across sectors including agriculture, e-commerce, education, and transport through co-financing catalytic and innovative activities.

Gender equality in transport is good for business: Suggestions to ensure successful gender mainstreaming

Catalina Crespo-Sancho's picture

Also available in: العربية

Women’s economic equality is good for business. It is clear that women play a fundamental role in building and sustaining the world economy.
 
They offer a powerful source of economic growth and opportunity. Women contribute not only to the formal economy, but also through the valuable and generally unpaid tasks of caregiving and homemaking. It has been proven that better opportunities in education, health, employment, and policies lead to better well being for women, their communities and — in turn — the economic and social well-being of a country.
 
However, only recently has the relationship of gender and infrastructure — more specifically, transport — and the role it plays in a country’s social and economic well-being been addressed.
 
Transport networks are one of the most important elements of a country’s infrastructure, and they are key to reducing poverty and promoting equality. A country’s transport infrastructure generally centers on enabling the supply of goods, connecting and providing access to people, services and trade, with the objective of bringing economic prosperity to a nation. However, it has been only in the past five to ten years that infrastructure projects have started to include gender awareness as part of their investment decisions.
 
As women become even more central to a country’s economy, addressing their transportation needs takes on an essential role in promoting economic growth and prosperity.

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