Sandton Bridge separates two South African communities that are worlds apart; Sandton, an affluent area believed to be the richest square mile in Africa, and Alexandra Township, one of the poorest urban areas in the country. Credit: World Bank
Ghana was the first country in Sub-Saharan Africa to meet the Millennium Development Goal (MDG1) target of halving extreme poverty by 2015. A share of the population living in poverty decreased from 52% in 1991 to 24% in 2012. Ghana is eager to lead the way in Africa again, but this time to graduate extreme poor households, out of poverty. The current policy debates are around graduating in about three to four years some 8.4 % of households living in extreme poverty. But to what occupations?
Yunus owns a fabric store in Blantyre, Malawi. The store was founded by his grandfather, who immigrated to Malawi in 1927, and has now been in his family for three generations. Business is good, Yunus said, but that the cost of essential services like electricity and water has gone up since his grandfather and father owned the store. Even so, he remains optimistic.
Marija Bosheva is a student at an agriculture and forestry vocational high school in Kavadarci, Macedonia. Like many high school students around the world, she takes daily lessons in history, math, biology, and chemistry. However, unlike many of her peers, she is also studying oenology — the art of making wine.
Are you carrying on a family tradition, like Yunus? Do you work or study in an entirely new field that didn’t exist when your parents were your age? Are you in the same position vis a vis your peers as your parents were vis a vis theirs?
- Fair Progress
- Economic Mobility
- Social Mobility
- Educational Mobility
- Intergenerational Mobility
- Social Development
- Labor and Social Protection
- The World Region
- South Asia
- Middle East and North Africa
- Latin America & Caribbean
- Europe and Central Asia
- East Asia and Pacific
Labor-intensive public works (LIPW) programs are a popular policy intended to provide temporary employment opportunities to vulnerable populations through work-intensive projects, such as the development and maintenance of local infrastructure, that do not require special skills. For a review of LIPW programs (design, evidence and implementation), see Subbarao et al. here. In fragile states, LIPW programs are also presumed to contribute to social and political stability. The developed infrastructure allows for the implementation of other development and peacekeeping activities, while employment opportunities may help prevent at-risk youth from being recruited by armed groups. Despite their popularity and presumed impact on beneficiaries, the evidence base of LIPW programs has been surprisingly weak.
The Development Impact Evaluation (DIME) unit, in collaboration with the Fragility, Conflict and Violence Cross Cutting Solutions Area (FCV-CSSA) and the Social Protection and Labor Global Practice (SPL-GP), is carrying out a multi-country set of 7 Randomized Control Trials (RCTs) of LIPW programs targeting around 40,000 households across 5 countries: Comoros, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, and Tunisia. This initiative is part of a broader research program on Fragility, Conflict and Violence (FCV) — a portfolio of 35 impact evaluations in over 25 countries that focuses on 5 key priority areas: (i) jobs for the poor and at-risk youth; (ii) public sector governance/civil service reforms; (ii) political economy of post-conflict reconstruction; (iv) gender-based violence; and (v) urban crime and violence.
Growth is picking up in South Africa, and this is good news after two years of declining incomes per capita. Observers are revising their forecasts, and optimists foresee economic growth to exceed 2% in next years. In recent months, several events have indeed improved South Africa’s economic outlook: the smooth transition in power, the authorities’ reaffirmed adherence to principles of good governance and debt stability, and the upward revision in national accounts, revealing higher economic activity in 2017 than previously measured.
The South African economy has been off to a good start in 2018. Statistics SA, the country’s national statistical service, released national accounts figures with revisions that pointed to more positive momentum in the economy than previously thought. South Africa grew by 1.3% in 2017, beating the consensus estimate of economists, and the revised numbers no longer record a technical recession early in the year.
On a busy street corner in Nairobi, Kenya, Abuya uses water to prepare and cook the food she sells to passersby. At the market in Hyderabad, India, Dimah splashes water on her fruit and vegetables to keep them fresh. In the make-shift hair-cutting salon in her basement in Medellin, Colombia, Isabela uses water to wash her customer’s hair.
While some studies predict automation to eliminate jobs at a dizzying rate, disruptive technologies can also create new lines of work. Our working draft of the forthcoming 2019 World Development Report, The Changing Nature of Work, notes that in the past century robots have created more jobs than they have displaced. The capacity of technology to exponentially change how we live, work, and organize leaves us at the World Bank Group constantly asking: How can we adapt the skills and knowledge of today to match the jobs of tomorrow?
One answer is to harness the data revolution to support new pathways to development. Some 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are generated every day from cell phones, sensors, online platforms, and other sources. When data is used to help individuals adapt to the technology-led economy, it can make a huge contribution toward ending extreme poverty and inequality. Technology companies, however well intended, cannot do this alone.
Creating jobs is not cheap —as I discussed in this post— and it can also be a slow process. It takes time for an idea to become a business plan and eventually a new or larger business. At the same time, in many developing countries, macro and regulatory policies often discourage entrepreneurship and investments. Reforming these policies takes time and having results on the ground even longer.
In the meantime, in many countries, there is a sense of urgency to address important labor challenges. It is not only youth unemployment or inactivity but also the fact that many of those who have a job are in very low productivity, very low-quality jobs. Citizens are becoming frustrated and impatient. What can be done in the short-run?
It is widely accepted that investments in infrastructure can lead to direct and indirect jobs, and usually have spillover effects into other economic opportunities. For example, good transport systems and agro-logistics services help move freight from farms to locations where value can be added (like intermediate processing, packaging and sorting of agricultural produce) and ultimately to consumers. However, the anticipated benefits of these investments are not always fully realized, or sometimes they happen much later. How can investments in infrastructure have a multiplier effect in stimulating the economy and, eventually, facilitate job creation?
To maximize their impact, infrastructure projects should explicitly analyze and include complementary investments (e.g., industrial parks or processing facilities) and soft interventions (financial services, ICT, laws and regulations, etc.) needed to unlock the potential of new markets. As part of a broader effort to link investment in rural roads to economic opportunities, the Roads to Jobs study analyzed strategic value chains in the agriculture sector in Rajasthan, India, to better understand the challenges faced by farmers in accessing markets and provided recommendations to address constraints.