A productive workforce is critical to lifting households out of poverty and achieving economic development. However, this requires investments in human capital, especially primary and secondary education. It also requires support for labor markets, for example by improving matching among employers and workers. In developing countries, there are significant barriers to workforce development, including limited school attendance, underperforming (or absent) teachers, lack of youth employment opportunities, and job market discrimination. Globally 250 million children, 130 million of whom are in school, are not able to read, write, or perform basic math skills. This crisis disproportionately affects women and girls, who have lower rates of school attendance and literacy compared with men and boys.
CEGA contributes to a broad portfolio of research on education and labor market outcomes for people in developing countries. Emerging evidence suggests that primary school deworming, teacher performance incentives, and girls’ merit scholarships and cash transfers may improve school attendance and test scores in some settings. In India, researchers are finding that recruiters can attract and retain women in the workforce, and management training can improve firm productivity.
In a randomized study, researchers found that a school-based deworming program in Kenya reduced serious worm infections among students by half and increased school participation by at least 7 percentage points. This represented a 25 percent reduction in primary school absenteeism, a more cost-effective intervention than alternative methods of increasing primary school participation.
A randomized evaluation in India found that providing three years of Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) recruitment services to women in selected rural villages successfully increased employment opportunities. Women in treatment villages were significantly more likely enroll in computer or English language courses, indicating a willingness to invest in getting a job or building a career. Younger school-aged girls who received the training had higher rates of school enrollment and higher body mass index, suggesting better nutrition (and greater investment by their parents).
In Andhra Pradesh, researchers found that hiring an extra contract teacher had significant positive impacts on both student and teacher performance, as contract teachers were significantly less likely than regular teachers to be absent (16 percent versus 27 percent) and more likely to engage in active teaching (46 percent versus 39 percent) when present. Relative to control schools, students in schools with contract teachers performed significantly better in both math and language skills.
UNESCO. (2014). Teaching and Learning: Achieving Quality for All. EFA Global Monitoring Report.
Photo: Middle & High School Students Playing in Anilady, Southern India; Credit: Nicole Wisler