Access to quality jobs is a pressing concern in sub-Saharan Africa. In Kenya, researchers partnered with the technology company Sama and Innovations for Poverty Action to conduct a randomized evaluation of Sama’s training and job referral programs. The training program provided youth from underserved communities with digital training, while the referral program provided trainees with a job referral to work with the company.

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Women are commonly underrepresented in the formal sector in low- and middle-income countries. Researchers introduced a recruitment drive for a firm in Malawi to evaluate the impact of referral-based hiring on women’s employment at the company. Results from the randomized evaluation indicate that men systematically referred fewer women, and women’s referral of other qualified women was not enough to offset men’s behavior.

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In recent years, the ready-made garment sector in Bangladesh has experienced rapid growth. Overall, most of these new jobs have gone to women, yet few women have been hired as managers. Researchers randomly assigned co-supervisors to production lines to evaluate the impact of exposing garment factory workers and supervisors to women managers on factory productivity, supervisor retention, and attitudes toward women.
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 Online job search platforms are increasingly common. However, there are still open questions on how to best design these platforms to improve job matching and employment. Researchers in Bangladesh partnered with a large online job search platform to evaluate the impact of increasing application time costs on applicant quality and employee retention.

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What’s the impact of digital credit on micro, small and medium enterprises? Are there differential effects on enterprises owned by women? If so, why?

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A cocoa farmer in Sierra Leone

The amount of competition between intermediaries in agricultural markets has a large role in determining prices but can be very hard to measure. Where formal financial institutions are absent, intermediary traders often serve as a substitute source of credit for farmers.

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More than 60 percent of global workers are employed in the informal sector, facing more challenges and risks than their formal sector counterparts. While governments and organizations have implemented programs to encourage formalization, progress is slower than hoped in Colombia. Researchers studied whether access to information promoted formalization in a low-income community.

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Recent evidence has pointed to the importance of socio-emotional skills development for improving business outcomes and for helping to close the gender gap between male- and female-owned small businesses.

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Recent studies have shown that a psychology-based entrepreneurial mindset training can have promising effects on business outcomes, but there is little evidence on how to improve the financial sustainability of these programs. Researchers are evaluating the effects of an entrepreneurial mindset training paired with business training on firm outcomes for female entrepreneurs in Mexico.

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Recent studies have shown that a psychology-based entrepreneurial mindset training can have promising effects on business outcomes. In Ecuador, researchers are evaluating whether these skills can be taught at scale and online by testing the effects of an entrepreneurial mindset training program on youth education and employment outcomes. They are also investigating if and how the effects change when the program is paired with mentoring.   

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SME manufacturing

Startups in developing countries tend to grow more slowly on average than those in high-income countries, but the reasons why are not well understood. Researchers analyzed data on all manufacturers with more than 10 employees in Colombia and the U.S. over a period of 30 years to compare employment growth among manufacturers in each country.

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Exposure to violence, conflict, and other traumatic life events can have harmful effects on the economic, human, and social capital of individuals and their communities. Entrepreneurship and business skills training curricula have been commonly adopted as an approach for promoting socio-economic inclusion in fragile settings.

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Improving tax administration is an important priority for many developing country governments. An efficient and equitable tax system can increase government revenue, lessen dependence on foreign aid, and strengthen state authority. Researchers studied the impact of an innovative taxpayer recognition program that appealed to business owners’ desires for social recognition on firms’ VAT tax compliance and payment rates in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

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In Sub-Saharan Africa, wage job opportunities are limited, and a vast majority of young people are engaged in low-productive work. Many governments support formal apprenticeship programs to help youth find suitable employment, but there is limited evidence on the direct and indirect effects of these public interventions.

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Youth unemployment and underemployment are pressing policy challenges in Sub-Saharan Africa and job-training programs have not proven to be effective (or cost-effective) at improving youth labor market outcomes. In Ghana, researchers conducted a randomized evaluation to estimate the impact of a government program that placed young people in traditional apprenticeships and matched them with training providers.

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