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Active Labor Markets and Youth Employment



Active labor market and youth employment

Underemployment and a lack of employment opportunities are two of the most challenging economic and social problems policymakers in developing countries face. Active labor market and youth employment programs use training, public works and job search assistance to help give people the skills to find jobs and to increase employment opportunities. At the time that this set of impact evaluations was funded, very few employment programs in developing countries had been evaluated. The portfolio in the Spanish trust fund, known as SIEF 1, evaluated nine active labor market and/or youth employment programs across eight countries in Africa, Central America, and Asia.



Dominican Republic: How useful are job training programs for unemployed youth?

Timeline: Completed

Evaluation:  Youth unemployment is a problem many countries face. In the Dominican Republic, the government in 2000 decided to develop a program to try to reduce youth unemployment, which at the time stood at 9.2 percent, compared with 3.5 percent for adults. An evaluation tested the impact of adding soft skills classes to a vocational training and internship program. This evaluation was one of the first to provide a long term analysis of the impact of training program on employability and outlook – researchers surveyed the sample group one year after the program ended and then again when three years had passed since the program. This evaluation was conducted under the SIEF 1 portfolio.


India: National Rural Employment Guarantee Evaluation

Timeline: Completed

Evaluation: The evaluation of India's National Rural Employment Guarantee program sought to measure the effectiveness of a program that guaranteed 100 days employment for more than 72 million people. Researchers utilized longitudinal survey data to evaluate the impact of the employment program on poverty and employment in rural Bihar, India, where at the time more than 50 percent of the some 90 million population lived below the poverty line.


Kenya: Can vouchers encourage young adults to enroll in job training?

Timeline: Completed

Evaluation: Youth unemployment and underemployment is a large concern in Sun-Saharan Africa. In Kenya, the World Bank supported a special voucher program for young adults, implemented by the Kenyan Ministry of Youth, Ministry of Education, and private vocational training institutions, and an evaluation sought to measure demand for vocational training and the impact of training on job seekers. The evaluation found that offer­ing young adults vouchers that cover program costs did encourage young adults to enroll, and that those who could use the voucher for a private training program were more likely to sign up and stay in school.


Liberia: Can employment opportunities for ex-combatants help build peace?

Timeline: Completed

Evaluation: In Liberia, where civil wars were fought on and off between 1989 and 2003, the non-profit organization Landmine Action (now known as Action on Armed Violence), the Government of Liberia, and the United Nations developed an innovative program to help ex-combatants move into full-time farm work by giving them training, counseling, and start-up capital. An evaluation of the program found that it successfully shifted high-risk men from criminal activities into farming. Graduates earned more money than their counterparts who weren’t enrolled in the program, spent less time in illegal work and were less likely to consider fighting as mercenaries in neighboring conflicts. The evaluation also showed that skills training isn’t always enough—men who received training but didn’t get their start-up capital didn’t do as well as those who did.


Liberia: Can Job programs for young women build employment and confidence?

Timeline: Completed

Evaluation: Fourteen years of civil war in Liberia devastated the country’s infrastructure and institutions, and left a generation of young people with very low levels of education, literacy, and training, entering the labor market too early and unprepared. Girls and women were particularly disadvantaged. The Economic Empowerment of Adolescent Girls and Young Women training program provided life skills, classroom training – with free childcare – and follow-on job placement or small business advice to help improve young women’s economic situation and control oevr their own finances. The evaluation found that women in the program increased their employment and earnings, boosted their control over their own finances and improved their outlook on the future.

Malawi: Can Job training and soft skills help employment and increase testing for HIV?

Timeline: Completed

Evaluation: To address employability and promote self-employment, and reduce risky sexual behavior, the Government of Malawi launched a vocational training program for vulnerable youth in 2009. The program included a soft skills component to build up confidence and self-esteem. Working with the government, researchers conducted a randomized evaluation of the program’s effect on skill development, economic outcomes, and sexual health. While the training generally led to increased skills development and improved well-being, there were more positive effects for men than women and there was no impact on labor market outcomes in the short-run for either gender. The vocational training program decreased the likelihood of childbearing in females and increased the likelihood of being HIV tested in males. In particular, when comparing the effects of vocational training and the inspirational talk treatments, we observe that early childbearing is mainly affected by vocational training, but not by inspirational talks. Regarding HIV testing, both treatments have a positive effect on the probability of being tested.


Tunisia: Can entrepreneur training help university graduate with employment?

Timeline: Completed

Evaluation: Improving educational achievement for youth doesn't always result in better employment opportunities, and this can be especially acute in developing countries. In Tunisia, the World Bank worked with the government to evaluate a program, called Turning Theses into Enterprises, which was designed to give university students entrepreneurship training and assistance developing business plans. The evaluation found that the program increased self-employment and helped students develop some skills associated with successful.


Turkey: Do job training programs really help people find jobs?

Timeline: Completed

Evaluation: In Turkey, researchers worked with the government to evaluate the impact of the Turkish National Employment Agency’s (ISKUR) vocational training program, which was launched to improve employment. The evaluation found that vocational training didn’t improve people’s chances of being employed three years later, despite a small short-term improvement the first year. The evaluation, one of the first randomized experiments of a large-scale training program for the unemployed, also found that trainings offered by private providers, particularly private providers facing more competition, had a larger impact than those from the government. Based on the results, the government made a number of changes in the program.


Uganda: If You Give the Poor Cash, Does it Help?

Timeline: Completed

Evaluation: The evaluation of Uganda's Youth Opportunities Program sought to gauge the effectiveness of providing unsupervised cash grants to young men and women to use for vocational training and to cover the start-up costs for small businesses.  Results showed that beneficiaries invested most of the cash in building business opportunities. While they still did agricultural work, they spent more time working in skilled industry and services and their incomes rose. The results have broad implications for development policies and underscore the importance of financing when it comes to employment creation, training and incomes.

Nine-year follow-up report