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.
Access to public transport and labor informality
Poor public transport can reduce employment in the formal sectorAna I. Moreno-Monroy, July 2016Public transport infrastructure has not kept up with the demands of growing populations in cities in developing countries. Infrastructure provision has historically been biased against less affluent areas, so access to formal jobs is often difficult and costly for a large part of the lower-income population. As a result, low-income workers may be discouraged from commuting to formal jobs, lack information on job opportunities, and face discrimination. Through these channels, constrained accessibility can result in higher rates of job informality. Reducing informality can be a target for well-designed transport policies.MoreLess
Adult literacy programs in developing countries
While mostly missing their primary objectives, adult literacy programs can still improve key socio-economic outcomesNiels-Hugo Blunch, July 2017In addition to the traditional education system targeting children and youth, one potentially important vehicle to improve literacy and numeracy skills is adult literacy programs (ALPs). In many developing countries, however, these programs do not seem to achieve these hoped for, ex ante, objectives and have therefore received less attention, if not been largely abandoned, in recent years. But, evidence shows that ALPs do affect other important socio-economic outcomes such as health, household income, and labor market participation by enhancing participants’ health knowledge and income-generating activities.MoreLess
- Migration and ethnicity
- Labor markets and institutions
- Transition and emerging economies
Aggregate labor productivity
Labor productivity is generally seen as bringing wealth and prosperity; but how does it vary over the business cycle?Michael C. Burda, April 2018Aggregate labor productivity is a central indicator of an economy’s economic development and a wellspring of living standards. Somewhat controversially, many macroeconomists see productivity as a primary driver of fluctuations in economic activity along the business cycle. In some countries, the cyclical behavior of labor productivity seems to have changed. In the past 20–30 years, the US has become markedly less procyclical, while the rest of the OECD has not changed or productivity has become even more procyclical. Finding a cogent and coherent explanation of these developments is challenging.MoreLess
Are apprenticeships beneficial in sub-Saharan Africa?
As they do not lead to high-productivity jobs, apprenticeships in sub-Saharan Africa fail to generate high incomesFrancis Teal, June 2016Apprenticeships are the most common form of non-academic training in sub-Saharan Africa. Most apprenticeships are provided by the private sector, for a fee, and lead to self-employment rather than to wage jobs. Where the effects have been measured, they show that earnings are not higher, on average, for people who did an apprenticeship than for those who did not. This presents a conundrum. Why would people pay for apprenticeship training that does not benefit them? Research reveals that apprenticeships do benefit some people more than others. Especially striking is that the returns to apprenticeships can fall with the level of education.MoreLess
Are social security programs progressive?
Whether social security programs reduce inequality is not related to the amount they redistributeAlvaro Forteza, July 2015Social security programs generally seek to provide insurance and to reduce poverty and inequality. Providing insurance requires little redistribution. But reducing inequality and alleviating poverty do require redistribution. To reduce inequality, programs must redistribute income, but redistributing income is not the same as reducing inequality. While some programs redistribute large amounts of income without noticeably reducing inequality, others reduce inequality with less redistribution and fewer labor market distortions. A non-contributory tier, which provides benefits without requiring contributions, is a key component for reducing inequality.MoreLess
Can cash transfers reduce child labor? Updated
Cash transfers can reduce child labor if structured well and if they account for the reasons children workFurio C. Rosati, February 2022Cash transfers are a popular and successful means of tackling household vulnerability and promoting human capital investment. They can also reduce child labor, especially when it is a response to household vulnerability, but their efficacy is very variable. If not properly designed, cash transfers that promote children's education can increase their economic activities in order to pay the additional costs of schooling. The efficacy of cash transfers may also be reduced if the transfers enable investment in productive assets that boost the returns to child labor. The impact of cash transfers must thus be assessed as part of the whole incentive system faced by the household.MoreLess
Can higher education reduce inequality in developing countries?
Expanding higher education might solve rising youth unemployment and widening inequality in AfricaAbebe Shimeles, July 2016Developing countries often face two well-known structural problems: high youth unemployment and high inequality. In recent decades, policymakers have increased the share of government spending on education in developing countries to address both of these issues. The empirical literature offers mixed results on which type of education is most suitable to improve gainful employment and reduce inequality: is it primary, secondary, or tertiary education? Investigating recent literature on the returns to education in selected developing countries in Africa can help to answer this question.MoreLess
Collective bargaining in developing countries
Negotiating work rules at the firm level instead of the industry level could lead to productivity gainsCarlos Lamarche, September 2015Because theoretical arguments differ on the economic impact of collective bargaining agreements in developing countries, empirical studies are needed to provide greater clarity. Recent empirical studies for some Latin American countries have examined whether industry- or firm-level collective bargaining is more advantageous for productivity growth. Although differences in labor market institutions and in coverage of collective bargaining agreements limit the generalizability of the findings, studies suggest that work rules may raise productivity when negotiated at the firm level but may sometimes lower productivity when negotiated at the industry level.MoreLess
Compensating displaced workers
Uncoordinated unemployment insurance and severance pay do a poor job of insuring against losses resulting from job displacementDonald O. Parsons, September 2018Job displacement poses a serious earnings threat to long-tenured workers through unemployment spells and lower re-employment wages. The prevailing method of insuring job displacement losses involves an uncoordinated combination of unemployment insurance and severance pay. Less developed countries often rely exclusively on public mandating of employer severance pay due to the administrative complexity of unemployment insurance systems. If both options are operational, systematic integration of the two is important, although perhaps not possible if severance pay is voluntarily provided.MoreLess