Development

Low-income countries differ from higher-income countries in that they have large informal sectors, greater prevalence of self-employment and subsistence agriculture, low female labor participation rates and poor labor market conditions. As labor is most often the only asset of someone in poverty, policies that are not associated with job creation may fail to reduce poverty. Contributions to this subject area deal with the potential of labor economics to address those challenges.

  • Public works programs in developing countries have the potential to reduce poverty

    The success of public works programs in reducing poverty depends on their design and implementation—in practice, they do better as safety nets

    Laura Zimmermann, May 2014
    Public works programs in developing countries can reduce poverty in the long term and help low-skilled workers cope with economic shocks in the short term. But success depends on a scheme’s design and implementation. Key design factors are: properly identifying the target population; selecting the right wage; and establishing efficient implementation institutions. In practice, rationing, corruption, mismanagement, and other implementation flaws often limit the effectiveness of public works programs.
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  • Youth bulges and youth unemployment

    Youth bulges are not a major factor explaining current levels of youth unemployment

    David Lam, May 2014
    The youth population bulge is often mentioned in discussions of youth unemployment and unrest in developing countries. But the youth share of the population has fallen rapidly in recent decades in most countries, and is projected to continue to fall. Evidence on the link between youth bulges and youth unemployment is mixed. It should not be assumed that declines in the relative size of the youth population will translate into falling youth unemployment without further policy measures to improve the youth labor market.
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  • The brain drain from developing countries

    The brain drain produces many more losers than winners in developing countries

    The proportion of foreign-born people in rich countries has tripled since 1960, and the emigration of high-skilled people from poor countries has accelerated. Many countries intensify their efforts to attract and retain foreign students, which increases the risk of brain drain in the sending countries. In poor countries, this transfer can change the skill structure of the labor force, cause labor shortages, and affect fiscal policy, but it can also generate remittances and other benefits from expatriates and returnees. Overall, it can be a boon or a curse for developing countries, depending on the country’s characteristics and policy objectives.
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  • Introducing a statutory minimum wage in middle and low income countries

    Successful implementation of a statutory minimum wage depends on context, capacity, and institutional design

    David N. Margolis, May 2014
    Motivations for introducing a statutory minimum wage in developing countries include reducing poverty, advancing social justice, and accelerating growth. Attaining these goals depends on the national context and policy choices. Institutional capacity tends to be limited, so institutional arrangements must be adapted. Nevertheless, a statutory minimum wage could help developing countries advance their development objectives, even where enforcement capacity is weak and informality is pervasive.
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  • Do firms benefit from apprenticeship investments?

    Why spending on occupational skills can yield economic returns to employers

    Robert Lerman, May 2014
    Economists once believed firms do not pay to develop occupational skills that workers could use in other, often competing, firms. Researchers now recognize that most firms benefit from investing in apprenticeship training. Evidence indicates that financial returns to firms vary. Some recoup their investment within the apprenticeship period, while others see their investment pay off only after accounting for reduced turnover, recruitment, and initial training costs. Generally, the first year of apprenticeships involves significant costs, but subsequently, the apprentice’s contributions exceed his/her wages and supervisory costs. Most participating firms view apprenticeships as offering certainty that all workers have the same high level of expertise and ensuring a supply of well-trained workers during sudden increases in demand and to fill leadership positions.
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  • Designing labor market regulations in developing countries

    Labor market regulation should aim to improve the functioning of the labor market while protecting workers

    Gordon Betcherman, May 2014
    Governments regulate employment to protect workers and to improve labor market efficiency. However, employment regulations can be controversial, often complicated by opposing ideological views. Thus, it is important for policymakers in developing countries to base decisions on empirical evidence of the impacts of these regulations. The majority of the evidence suggests that most countries have set their regulations in the appropriate range. But it can be costly when countries either overregulate or underregulate their labor market.
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