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.
“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.
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.
For every software developer in the United States, there are five open jobs. Africa, meanwhile, has the youngest, fastest-growing population on earth, with more people joining the labor force over the next 20 years than the rest of the world combined.
With this idea in mind, and the powerful belief that "brilliance is evenly distributed, but opportunity is not," Andela, founded four years ago, began recruiting recent graduates in Africa with the mission of connecting them to job opportunities in high-tech companies. Today, about 650 developers in Lagos, Nairobi, and Kampala work full-time for over 100 firms spread across 45 cities worldwide.
Creating more and better jobs is central to our work at the World Bank and a shared goal for virtually all countries —developed and developing alike. But oftentimes the policy debate turns to the cost and effectiveness of programs and projects in creating jobs.
As an example, I recently found myself in the middle of a discussion regarding a development project aimed at creating employment: one of the reviewers objected given that the cost per job created was too high. “More than $20,000 per job,” he said, comparing it to much lower numbers (between $500 and $3,000 per job) usually associated with active labor market programs such as training, job search assistance, wage subsidies, or public works.
But what is the rationale behind these numbers?
There is a well-known idiom saying that you can't compare apples and oranges. But this is precisely the challenge researchers often face when it comes to measuring the jobs impact of development projects. Having standardized impact evaluation tools and methods is a milestone for private sector-led job investments, and it allows international financial institutions, development practitioners, and governments to build on existing knowledge to develop solutions. And this is precisely one of the goals that Let's Work partnership, composed of 30 different institutions, is currently pursuing; to track the number of jobs generated from private sector-led interventions, the quality of those jobs, and how inclusive those jobs are in a standardized way, so apples are compared to apples and oranges to oranges.
In recent past, there have been many innovations in areas of technology, extension, ICT, education, and incubation leading to new generation of enterprises and enterprise clusters resulting in the creation of good quality and new jobs in agriculture and food systems. A key challenge in the future is how we create more and better jobs in the agriculture and food system value chain. One of the major requirements for creating more jobs is a radical change in the way youth are taught agriculture and entrepreneurship. The skills required for a modern agriculture and food system are of a higher order and need to be upgraded significantly.
As part of the 2017 Global Learning Forum more than 250 staff in the Agriculture Global Practice from around the world are learning how Agriculture and Food Systems are going to look like in future. The group participants visited the Urban Food Hubs Program being managed by the University of the District of Columbia (UDC). The Urban Food Hubs focus on four components: food production, food preparation, food distribution, and waste and water recovery.
How and when can we use technology to design and implement youth employment programs? We should ask ourselves whether investing in digital solutions is worth the time and money before deciding to include a digital component in our projects, because as much as technology can be transformative and help provide solutions, it is both expensive and time-consuming. Furthermore, we need to make sure we fully understand the problem that we are trying to solve.