Many countries struggle with creating more and better jobs, especially when they try to increase the number of women in the labor market. Integrating women from more traditional, rural communities is especially difficult. And, if we are talking about a country with the second lowest female labor participation in the world, it might seem like an impossible task. This is exactly the situation that Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan faced a few years ago, and today they provide an interesting example of how innovative policies can address this challenge.
With the right kind of reforms, public employment services can do a better job of matching job seekers from poor households. In low and middle-income countries, individuals from poor households find jobs through informal contacts; for example asking friends and family and other members of their limited network. But this type of informal job search tends to channel high concentrations of the poor individuals into informal, low-paid work.
Job seekers especially from poor households need bigger, more formal networks to go beyond the limited opportunities offered by the informal sector in their local communities. This is where public employment services can help, but in developing countries many of these services just simply do not work well: they suffer from limited financing and poor connections to employers, and governments are looking for ways to reform and modernize them to today’s job challenges.
There are lots of cases where developing countries have improved their public employment services and these can serve as models. The lessons from these successful reforms can be distilled and replicated. Based on our recent publication, here are three case-tested strategies that improved the performance, relevance and image of public employment services.
Youth employment projects face varying contextual realities and constraints that often result in generating innovations when adapting and customizing their monitoring and evaluation system. There is a lag in the spread of innovations due to the various contexts, funders, and organizations often operating independently. Project teams find their own solutions to similar rising challenges, which in some instances lead to a medley of methods and conventions in monitoring and evaluation that lack a uniform standard.
To capture some of the main innovations and challenges in monitoring and evaluation, we held our first Virtual Workshop with Solutions for Youth Employment (S4YE)’s Impact Portfolio, which is a group of 19 promising and innovative youth employment projects. This brought together 30 participants from locations spanning across regions. As our new report highlights, challenges include: measuring job creation; consistently measuring important outcomes such as the financial behaviors of entrepreneurs; and tracking beneficiaries after graduating from youth employment programs to measure labor market outcomes.
We covered two new frameworks varying in scope, from a broad overarching framework to track jobs-related outcomes of projects to a newly developed metric focused on cost-effectiveness.
Innovations in youth employment programs are critical to addressing this enormous development challenge effectively. Rapid progress in digital technology, behavioral economics, evaluation methods, and the connectivity of youth in the developing world generates a stream of real-time insights and opportunities in project design and implementation. Part of the challenge is the sheer number of projects (just in Egypt, there are over 180 youth employment programs). And even without being aware, projects often innovate out of necessity in response to situations they face on the ground. But innovations need to be tested in different country contexts to be able to make an impact at scale.
Through the new Solutions for Youth Employment (S4YE) report, our team ventured to curate a few such ongoing innovations as they were being implemented through S4YE’s Impact Portfolio — a group of 19 youth employment projects from different regions being implemented by different partners across the globe. This network of youth employment practitioners serves as a dynamic learning community and laboratory for improving the jobs outcomes of youth globally.
In high-income countries, entrepreneurs routinely accept electronic payments from customers and make electronic payments to suppliers, tax authorities and others. But in developing countries, where more than a third of adults report being self-employed, digital payments are an underdeveloped business tool – one that can provide significant benefits to both entrepreneurs as well as society by bringing more people into the formal financial system. With the rapid growth of mobile phone ownership to facilitate digital payments in the developing world, shifting from cash to digital payments offers high potential payoffs for entrepreneurs worldwide. A new report shows how digital payments can benefit entrepreneurs.
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.
For a young person who has spent his or her whole life living in a village in rural Africa, moving out is often desirable in theory, but daunting in practice. From the life histories of migrants in Tanzania it becomes clear that a number of important resources are needed, which are typically scarce in supply, particularly within the village. These include, among others, cash to pay the bus fare and a familiar face at destination, professional skills to find meaningful employment, and the life skills to operate in the anonymous, cash-based urban environment. And just because of the particular challenge of getting these in the village, the first move becomes so special.
In our previous post, we explored how migration from rural to urban areas is not a one-step move, but rather a dynamic lifelong process that expands and modifies migrants’ action space and opportunities to improve their life conditions, and how the attraction of secondary towns could be partly understood within this framework because of their role as “action space” enhancers.
Yet, defining precisely what constitutes a town or a city is tricky, to the point that Wittgenstein found it even a useful analogy with which to demonstrate definitional conundrums more broadly. “And how many houses or streets does it take for a town to be a town?”, he rhetorically asks his readers, while discussing at what point a language should be considered complete in his Philosophical Investigations.
At the same time, the distinction between towns and cities is intuitively unambiguous to most non-experts. Asking how migrants themselves see the difference may further help understand why they often move to towns, while the income levels and amenities are higher in the cities. According to the conversations we had with 75 migrants from rural Kagera, Tanzania, three dimensions stand out: vibrancy, monetization and anonymity.
Raymond is a young boy living in rural Kagera, Tanzania. He has always dreamed of moving to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s prime city, 1,650 km away and currently with a population of 4.5 million. Getting there, for someone with his background and skills, was next to impossible. But, having familiarized himself with the wheeling and dealing of urban life through his moves through several secondary towns in Tanzania, he is getting closer. Over the past few years, he moved 8 times, expanding and contracting his action space with each move.
The story of Raymond challenges the traditional vision of rural to urban migration as a one-step process. It further draws attention to the opportunity that secondary towns can add for improving people’s welfare through migration. These are some of the insights emerging from the in-depth conversations with 75 migrants from rural Kagera, Tanzania which are recounted here in a 3-blog series. This first blog focuses on the importance of “Making action space”.
Finding a good job is increasingly difficult – especially for young people. Globally, young people are up to four times more likely to be unemployed than adults. Furthermore, the lack of opportunity can have devastating consequences for their long-term employment outcomes. Youth often lack the skills and competencies that are in high demand from employers, but they also face information gaps about which relevant skills they should signal to prospective employers.
To better understand youth and skills trends in emerging markets, the Solutions for Youth Employment (S4YE) Coalition embarked on a research collaboration with LinkedIn to analyze demand and supply side data from 390,000 entry-level job postings and 6.4 million LinkedIn profiles of young people (aged 21-29) in four diverse middle-income countries. Using big data analytics, the recently released report The Skills Gap or Signaling Gap: Insights from LinkedIn in emerging markets of Brazil, India, Indonesia, and South Africa brings the following three insights on what skills employers in those countries are looking for in youth hires.