Providing Opportunities for Poor Children and Youth in Bolivia

March 22, 2017

Bolivia, investing in youth and children. Photo: World Bank

Bolivia sought to design, finance, and implement interventions focused on the needs of its poor children and youth. The results of its efforts increased food consumption and use of health and nutrition services among pregnant women and children below the age of two. Poor youth ages 18 to 24 benefited from programs providing opportunities for skills training and initial labor market experiences.


Despite a decrease in the incidence of poverty since the late 1990s, as of 2006, roughly 60 percent of Bolivia’s population still lived in poverty. The poverty rate for children and youth surpassed the national average, reaching as high as 80 percent among children under five living in rural areas. The lack of access to quality health and nutrition services increased vulnerabilities among poor and rural populations. In 2003, chronic malnutrition affected one-third of Bolivian children under five; 42 percent of these children lived in rural areas, where the infant mortality rate reached 86 per 1,000 live births. The effects on low-income children of poor nutritional status in infancy were compounded by low quality and insufficient basic and secondary education later in life, resulting in considerable disadvantages for poor Bolivian youth entering the labor market. While overall urban unemployment was 8 percent in 2005, unemployment for youth aged 18 to 24 reached more than 18 percent and was nearly double that level among the poorest populations.


The Investing in Children and Youth Project assisted the government of Bolivia in strengthening the effectiveness of its social protection system by supporting the design, financing, and implementation of two flagship interventions focused on the nation’s poorest and most vulnerable children and youth. The first intervention, Bono Juana Azurduy (BJA), previously named the Social Protection Program for Mothers and Children, provides cash transfers to families with pregnant women and/or mothers of children below two years of age without health insurance. BJA is designed to provide an incentive for extremely poor families to invest in the health and nutrition of young children and to provide financial support to increase the food consumption of beneficiary households. The project financed BJA benefits to 107 of the most vulnerable municipalities and supported overall program management, monitoring, and evaluation.

The second program intervention, My First Job with Dignity (Mi Primer Empleo Digno, MPED), formerly known as the First Employment Program, aims to increase the employability of low-income youth living in poor urban and periurban areas who completed at least the second year of secondary education by providing opportunities for skills training and a first labor market experience. The project supported the implementation of the MPED program in the six largest cities in Bolivia.

Bolivia, investing in youth and children. Photo: World Bank


The BJA impact evaluation found statistically significant increases in the demand for prenatal and postnatal healthcare services among the intended beneficiaries and an intermediate outcome for decreased malnutrition. The BJA impact evaluation covered the period 2009 to 2012. The BJA main impacts were as follows:

  • The demand for prenatal care by BJA program participants was higher than that of their non-BJA counterparts. Specifically, pregnant women who participated in the program were 10 percent more likely to have at least one health check-up before week 20 of the pregnancy and at least four prenatal check-ups during the pregnancy.
  • The demand for postnatal care by BJA program participants was higher than that of their non-BJA counterparts. Specifically, children participating in the program had up to 3.6 additional check-ups before age 24 months and an 11 percent greater probability of receiving a full basic vaccine program.
  • The BJA had a statistically significant impact on health outcomes, including: (i) reduced low birth weight (for children in urban areas, the probability of a birthweight of less than 2,500 grams decreased 8.3 percent); and (ii) reduced incidence of anemia (for children in rural areas participating in the program, the probability of developing anemia declined by 7.8 percent, as compared to nonparticipants).   

Results from the MPED impact evaluation indicated that the program led to significant increases in the employability and labor quality among its beneficiaries. The final survey indicated the following achievements:

  • 72 percent of beneficiaries had an employment contract four months or more after the end of the internship, and approximately 22 percent of the employment rate among beneficiaries could be attributed to the MPED.
  • Beneficiaries’ rate of formal employment (that is, with social security contributions) increased for males from 5.2 percent before participation to 18 percent after and for females from 2.2 percent before to 10 percent after. Ten percent of these increases was attributable to the MPED.
  • Finally, earnings also improved among MPED participants, increasing by 49 percent for males and 100 percent for females. This increase resulted from both higher hourly wages and more hours of work. MPED participation contributed roughly 60 percent of the average increment.

Bolivia, investing in youth and children. Photo: World Bank

Bank Group Contribution

The World Bank, through the International Development Association, provided the equivalent of US$ 12.49 million to the project costs. Project preparation was funded by a trust fund grant in the amount of US$ 313,351.78 from the Japan Policy and Human Resources Development Fund and a Bank contribution of US $276,000.


The Bank collaborated with the Inter-American Development Bank (Multiphase Program in Support of the Plan to Eradicate Extreme Poverty (PEEP)), both on BJA program management (including its management information system, processes evaluation, and monitoring) and on the impact evaluation of the BJA program.

Moving Forward

The project was fully implemented within the government’s public-sector structure, with administrative expenditures financed by government funds. Since the midterm project review, the government has been fully responsible for financing BJA transfers to program beneficiaries, including the 107 municipalities supported under the project. The MPED program continues to operate under the Ministry of Labor, with additional support from a follow-on US$ 20 million Bank loan, the Improving Employability and Labor Income of Youth Project, approved on May 15, 2014.  


From 2009 to 2012, the period during which transfers were supported by the project, more than 130,000 Bolivian pregnant women and children below two years of age living in the 107 most vulnerable municipalities in the country benefited from the program. A total of 1,367 MPED beneficiaries completed training courses and received a medium-level technical degree accredited by the Ministry of Education in the areas of apparel construction, gastronomy, construction, metallurgy, and domiciliary gas service installations. Sixty percent of these MPED beneficiaries were women. 

Beneficiaries’ rate of formal employment increased for males from 5.2 percent before participation to 18 percent after and for females from 2.2 percent before to 10 percent after

Project Map