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Kick-Off Workshop, Jan. 30, 2012, Paris

First GLM | LIC workshop: Setting the Research Agenda
Paris, January 30, 2012


The aim of this first GLM | LIC workshop was to further shape the research agenda through presentations and a panel discussion involving key experts in the field of development and labor markets.

Below you can find access to several video recordings from the workshop, including the keynote lecture by Francois Bourguignon and the panel discussion.

The five panel members each wrote a short paper on the question “what are the most important research questions on the economics of growth and labor markets in low-income countries?”. Their papers can be downloaded here:

Paper by Haroon Bhorat (University of Cape Town)
Paper by Carmen Pages (Inter-American Development Bank & IZA)
Paper by David Robalino (World Bank & IZA)
Paper by Alan Winters (University of Sussex & IZA)
Paper by Christoffer Woodruff (University of Warwick & IZA)

A number of key themes emerged from the presentations and discussion:
  • Unemployment, at least as it is conventionally measured, is not the major labor market problem in low-income countries. While low-income countries have had among the highest rates of population growth in the world in recent decades, unemployment has generally not increased in these countries. The more serious problem is that the vast majority of workers are in low-paying, low-productivity jobs in agriculture, small-scale self-employment, or the urban informal sector.
  • Given that the majority of workers in most low-income countries are self-employed, and that this is unlikely to change much over the coming years, traditional social protection programs that are linked to formal employment will have a limited impact on working conditions. This raises the issue of how working conditions can be improved for the self-employed.
  • The variance in firm productivity appears to be much larger in low-income countries than it is in middle-income and high-income countries. This raises the question of what barriers may limit the creation and expansion of high-productivity firms, and what factors may allow small low-productivity firms to survive.
  • Little is known about what drives job creation in low-income countries. Given a high proportion of the labor force is self-employed, what determines their decisions to employ workers? Are there barriers that prevent the self-employed from hiring workers?
  • Non-market work plays an important role in low-income countries, but we have limited ability to measure non-market productivity and the value of non-market work. This is especially important for women, who are disproportionately found in non-market work. This also makes it difficult to get good estimates of women’s labor supply as they are most often engaged in self-employment or unpaid work on farms or in other family businesses.
  • Longitudinal data has been very informative about labor market dynamics in high-income and middle-income countries, providing evidence on transitions between formal and informal jobs, transitions between employment and unemployment, and other dimensions of labor market dynamics. There is good reason to think that labor market dynamics may be different in low-income countries, but the shortage of data, especially longitudinal data, means we know very little about these dynamics.
  • Low levels of schooling are a constraint on productivity growth in low-income countries. While primary schooling has increased rapidly for both males and females in low-income countries, there has been more limited success in converting primary completion into completion of secondary and tertiary education. In many low-income countries there has been very little attention to technical and vocational education and training (TVET), a segment of the educational system that may be especially important for increasing wages, employment, and productivity. 
  • We know much less about the distribution of earnings in low-income countries than we do in middle-income and high-income countries.  This is the result of both data limitations and a lack of research on low-income country labor markets. There is a need for research on inequality in earnings by gender, region, and ethnicity, and for research on returns to skill (both cognitive and non-cognitive) and how those returns vary across groups. 

Link to videos:
Videos of the Kick-Off Workshop in Paris

Keynote Presentation by Francois Bourguignon (Paris School of Economics)
Panel Presentation by David Robalino (World Bank & IZA)
Panel Presentation by Christopher Woodruff (University of Warwick & IZA)
Panel Presentation by Carmen Pages (Inter-American Development Bank & IZA)

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