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What are we learning about the impacts of public works programs on employment and violence? Early findings from ongoing evaluations in fragile states

Eric Mvukiyehe's picture

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.

Breaking the vicious cycle of high inequality and slow job creation

Sébastien Dessus's picture
Keneuwe Monakale testing water quality at the pre-brew plant. The Alrode Brewery. Johannesburg South Africa. 23rd April 2008. The brewery is the largest in South africa. It produces 1,9 Million litres of per per day. The brewery employs some 900 fulltime and contract staff. Photo: Media Club/FlickR

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 is growing faster—but how fast?

Marek Hanusch's picture
Construction workers. South Africa. Photo: Trevor Samson/World Bank

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.

Women and jobs in water

Gaia Hatzfeldt's picture

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.

Toward a linked and inclusive economy

Jim Yong Kim's picture
The arrival of broadband internet is set to significantly improve medical services in Tonga. © Tom Perry/World Bank.
The arrival of broadband internet is set to significantly improve medical services in Tonga. © Tom Perry/World Bank.

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.

How to create jobs fast: From public works and wage subsidies to social services and capital subsidies

David Robalino's picture
It is well-known that markets tend to neglect the provision of many social services. There is, therefore, a role for governments to subsidize the provision of these services. Photo: Sarah Farhat/ World Bank

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?

How can new infrastructure accelerate creation of more and better jobs?

Vismay Parikh's picture
The study analyzed four stages of the value chain —production; storage and logistics; processing; and marketing— to understand the potential for job creation stimulated by infrastructure projects. (Photo: Kubat Sydykov / World Bank)


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.

The invisible door: Three barriers limiting women’s access to work

Namita Datta's picture
Women’s labor force participation worldwide over the last two decades has stagnated, and women generally earn less than men. (Photo: Tom Perry / World Bank)
How can we Press For Progress —the theme of International Women's Day 2018— to improve women's opportunities at work? Despite progress on women’s health and education in the past few decades, the gender gap on access to jobs has remained a stubborn challenge.

Rural Women Entrepreneurs: What does it take?

Shobha Shetty's picture

“Sabse jyada munafa chuski mein hai (The biggest margin lies in small ice pops)”, says Shanti Devi with the definitive confidence of a seasoned entrepreneur. Shanti, a resident of Kotwana village in Bihar’s Gaya district runs an ice-cream production and sales unit that has an annual revenue of INR 1.9 million and employs 22 workers for a significant part of the year. While sharing the long list of ice-cream flavours she vends, Shanti also signals at a much larger phenomenon. “Every third shop in this market is run by a JEEViKA member, ranging from grocery and utensil stores to a newspaper agency.”


Shanti is the microcosm of a transformative ecosystem that has nurtured 1.8 million new and existing women entrepreneurs while creating 800,000 new jobs in India. The JEEViKA that Shanti refers to, is a World Bank supported program of the Government of Bihar aimed at empowering women through Self-Help groups (SHGs), commodity specific producer groups and higher federations. The approach scaled up nation-wide under the National Rural Livelihoods Mission (NRLM) is driving growth and job creation in rural areas through women-owned enterprises.

Today there are 45 million rural women across India that are mobilized into self-help groups under the NRLM umbrella. Some 3.9 million SHGs and their federations have been empowered with skills, access to finance, markets, and business development services.  This is triggering a huge change in the lives of the rural women.

My life as an entrepreneur in Egypt

Mostafa Amin's picture

Egypt is a market of more than 100 million people and full of opportunities for the trained entrepreneurial eye. Like many developing nations, Egypt seems to have a struggling job market, but many see this as a blessing in disguise. In a country where millions are looking for jobs, there are also millions who give up on the search and create their own opportunities. This might seem far-fetched, but the reality is that poor people in developing nations are extremely entrepreneurial – probably even more so than in developed countries. Professor Ha-Joon Chang captured this fact in his book, 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism

One of the best decisions in my life was to reject a job offer from a big corporation and embark on an entrepreneurial start-up journey. Indeed, the journey has been tough and there were, and still are, bumpy roads, but the rising entrepreneurial spirit across the country has been extremely uplifting. I have been in the Egyptian entrepreneurial ecosystem for the past few years and I consider myself well connected and quite informed about everything that has been happening. But I can say with confidence that what the country has been seeing in the past few years is very promising and inspires us to do more. 

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