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Jobs and Job Search in Developing Countries: Nice Work if You Can Get it!

Jobs often do not get the attention they deserve in development, one scholar calling this lack of attention “jobs dementia.” Quite simply, getting and keeping a decent-wage job has been found to be the most important factor in enabling the poor to get out of poverty and stay out.1 It is also the single most important factor to explain the decline of inequality in those countries that have seen a decline. This makes sense even without a lot of econometric studies when we remember that the poor have only their labor - no financial assets - with which to exit poverty permanently.

There are many policies and programs that need to interact well together to increase the ability of all, but particularly of the poor (who comprise nearly half the developing world, earning two dollars or less a day) to get, keep or move into a good paying job. So many in the developing world earn meager wages for time-consuming but low productivity work; thus, improving both the job and the fit of the worker to the job is part of advancing labor productivity and employment that, in turn, feeds economic growth.

This book is about one (but not all) of the policies needed for better employment. It is about developing services that connect those looking for jobs with a job they likely would not have known about or been considered for on their own. The “active labor market” policy used in advanced countries is termed “employment services.” Employment services date back to WWI and have traditionally been run by the public © The Author(s) 2017

J. Mazza, Labor Intermediation Services in Developing Economies, DOI 10.1057/978-1-137-48668-4_1

sector, but everywhere in the world their form and their associated partnerships are evolving with the changing global labor market. The economic rationale for employment services remains largely the same though, they aim to help more people get better jobs faster - less time searching for work, less time unemployed, a better fit in the job, leading to less job rotation, and better income over time. In the most advanced countries, both public and private employment services have evolved simultaneously into a combination of public, private, online, and in-person services that openly list jobs and help with the match between employer and job seeker. In the developed countries, think Manpower Group, Monster.com, together with your local job board, your school, and friends of your uncle in the business.

This chapter will lay out some of the foundations of job search in developing countries, looking first at a variety of evidence and studies that demonstrate what one may already have guessed - that finding even an existing job in developing economies is relatively difficult and that the poor are particularly disadvantaged. The second section tries to broaden the understanding of who might be looking for work in developing countries and then places job search in the context of the bigger, lack-of- good-jobs problem. It is hard to estimate the potential employment and productivity gains just from improving job matching and getting more jobs more openly listed. However, this book argues it is worthwhile to think of one gain further, as many associated labor market mismatches are indirectly affected by the lack of knowledge about labor market demand and the poor functioning of the institutions preparing the workforce. Acknowledging all along the way the great dysfunctions in the labor markets of most developing countries, the chapters that follow lay out how the basic employment service model should be adapted differently to fit the markets of developing countries. This introductory chapter sets up the rest of the book taking a look at how poorly job search currently operates in most developing countries as well as at the bigger jobs “problem” - informality, poor quality jobs, skills mismatches, and more - hence, the subtitle: “nice work if you can get it!”

 
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