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.
International Children’s Day is celebrated in Mongolia as an official holiday. I could see that it provided an opportunity to reflect on the country’s commitment to create opportunities for its children to thrive and realize their full potential in school and adult life. Nowhere is this commitment more evident than in the education sector. With near-universal access to basic education achieved, legislation and government policy now calls for the expansion of early childhood education (ECE) services to cover every child in the country.
Assessments make a lot of people nervous, and I’m not just talking about the students who have to take them. As a psychometrician (assessment expert) and World Bank staffer, I’ve worked on assessment projects in more than 30 countries around the world over the past 10 years. Time and again, I’ve found great interest in student assessment as a tool for monitoring and supporting student learning coupled with great unease over how exactly to go about ‘doing’ an assessment.
The World Bank Group surveys its stakeholders from country governments, development organizations, civil society, private sector, academia, and media in all client countries across the globe. Building a dialogue with national governments and non-state partners based of the data received directly from them is an effective way to engage stakeholders in discussions in any development area at any possible level.
Let's take the education sector as an example to see how Country Survey data might influence the engagement that the Bank Group has on this highly prioritized area of work.
When Country Surveys ask what respondents identify as the greatest development priority in their country, overall, education is perceived as a top priority (31%, N=263) in India.1 However, in a large country, stakeholder opinions across geographic locations may differ, and the Country Survey data can be 'sliced and diced' to provide insight into stakeholders' opinions based on their geography, gender, level of collaboration with the Bank Group, etc. In India the data analyzed at the state level shows significant differences in stakeholder perceptions of the importance of education. The survey results can be used as a basis for further in-depth analyses of client's needs in education in different states and, therefore, lead to more targeted engagement on the ground. In the case of the India Country Survey, the Ns at the geographical level may be too small to reach specific conclusions, but this example illustrates the possibility for targeted analysis.
Places with cold climates need access to a reliable and efficient heat supply for the health of their population. But in developing countries, the majority of rural and peri-urban households do not have access to centralized heating or gas networks. Instead, they use traditional heating stoves that use solid fuels like coal, wood, and dung for heating. These stoves are often inefficient (with thermal efficiency as low as 25%-40% compared to 70% or above for efficient stoves) and emit large amounts of pollutants (e.g., CO and PM2.5), causing indoor and outdoor air pollution with negative health and environmental impacts.
In the spring of 1997 I conducted the research for a study of Mongolia’s informal sector. It was the first such study in the country and there was a blank slate in terms of information. I was fascinated by how rapidly it had grown, by questions about the size of the sector, by how people working in the informal sector see and organized themselves, by informal entrepreneurship and the spontaneity of markets.
I had as much fun as I have had in my career before or since, poring through statistics, interviewing taxi drivers and shoe shine boys. I interviewed officials on how they decide to provide permission for kiosks to set up shop and how they collaborate with informal (i.e., private, independent) buses. I worked with the NSO and the Ulaanbaatar city statistics department to do a survey to put some numbers with the stories.
In 1950, the average working-age person in the world had almost three years of education, but in East Asia and Pacific (EAP), the average person had less than half that amount. Around this time, countries in the EAP region put themselves on a path that focused on growth driven by human capital. They made significant and steady investments in schooling to close the educational attainment gap with the rest of the world. While improving their school systems, they also put their human capital to work in labor markets. As a result, economic growth has been stellar: for four decades EAP has grown at roughly twice the pace of the global average. What is more, no slowdown is in sight for rising prosperity.
High economic growth and strong human capital accumulation are deeply intertwined. In a recent paper, Daron Acemoglu and David Autor explore the way skills and labor markets interact: Human capital is the central determinant of economic growth and is the main—and very likely the only—means to achieve shared growth when technology is changing quickly and raising the demand for skills. Skills promote productivity and growth, but if there are not enough skilled workers, growth soon chokes off. If, by contrast, skills are abundant and average skill-levels keep rising, technological change can drive productivity and growth without stoking inequality.
- boost prosperity
- Knowledge and Skills
- job market
- job creation
- Social Development
- Public Sector and Governance
- East Asia and Pacific
- Solomon Islands
- Papua New Guinea
- Micronesia, Federated States of
- Marshall Islands
- Lao People's Democratic Republic
- Korea, Republic of
As Mongolia suffers with economic instability due to external and internal circumstances, how can we improve performance of basic public services in a way that works well in the Mongolian context but also brings sustained outcomes?
October 17 is End Poverty Day. Every day is a day to end poverty, but it helps to designate one day per year to reflect on this goal and how we can work to achieve it.
In Mongolia, poverty declined from 2010 to 2012, and again from 2012 to 2014. Since poverty rates very closely track overall economic growth, this is not surprising. Growth in labor incomes over the period helped reduce poverty, and this growth, in turn, was generated by increases in real wages in the non-agricultural sector and non-wage income in the agricultural sector. Mongolia’s fondness for universal social transfers also contributed: poverty rates fell from 38.8 percent in 2010 to 21.6 percent in 2014, based on the national poverty lines.
That was then, this is now.
Although the 2016 poverty level is not yet available, we can be sure that the economic downturn has not helped. Overall growth of GDP is projected to be only 0.1 percent for 2016, with production in the non-mining sector declining. And Mongolia’s pro-cyclical policies that funded social programs in the boom years now face opposite pressures. Social welfare programs that are categorically targeted and pro-cyclically funded are more difficult to scale up when times become difficult.
With a large and unsustainable budget deficit (projected to reach 18 percent of GDP for 2016), and with growing levels of debt, Mongolia has little choice but to focus on fiscal consolidation. Can they do so without hurting the most vulnerable people in society?