Employment strategies for developing countries



For the developing countries as a whole, the most critical question is how to create quickly hundreds of millions of jobs for the poor with limited purchasing power and limited capital for investment. The idea that most of these jobs could be created in the corporate sector or by government-sponsored activities has been put to rest. Currently, there are nearly one billion self-employed and unpaid family workers in the world, most of them self-employed farmers in developing countries. The self-employed represent 48 per cent of the workforce in low-income economies (less than $500 per capita GDP). For any strategy to be successful, it must give central importance to self-employment and entrepreneurship, with emphasis on agriculture, agro-industry and small firms in the informal sector. While a single approach will not be applicable to countries and regions of the world in different stages of development, a number of common principles and strategies are widely applicable.

Agriculture as an engine

Slightly more than half the world's workforce, of whom 30 per cent are women, are still engaged in agriculture. Agriculture will remain the largest single occupation for the foreseeable future. For too long this sector has been regarded by planners primarily as the source of essential food production. Historically, agriculture has also played a major role as an engine for economic growth and employment. The Industrial Revolution in nineteenth-century England was spawned by rising productivity and incomes in agriculture that increased demand for manufactured goods. In post-war Japan, South Korea, and more recently Thailand, rising agricultural productivity and a shift to commercial crops have been dynamic engines for economic growth, job creation, higher incomes and rural purchasing power, wider markets for produce, and the growth of downstream industries. In Taiwan, this was the result of a conscious strategy to utilize agriculture to stimulate job creation and domestic demand.

The vast technological gap between the levels of agricultural productivity achieved by most developing countries and the highest yields achieved globally represents an enormous untapped potential for stimulating economic growth and job creation. The reduction in agricultural subsidies to farmers in industrial nations called for in the recently signed GATT trade agreements will generate far higher international demand for agricultural exports from developing countries. In the next chapter, we argue strongly for an agriculture-led job creation strategy and cite evidence to show how it can generate sufficient jobs to eradicate poverty in many countries.

New deal for the self-employed

Excluding agriculture, there are 104 million self-employed and unpaid family workers in developing countries, representing 37 per cent of the non-agricultural workforce. Self-employed persons and the small firms which they establish have enormous potential for rapidly generating large numbers of new jobs and raising productivity to increase incomes, provided the right policy measures are in place to support them. Japan's economic growth has relied heavily on the proliferation of small rural enterprises. Today, 74 per cent of the Japanese workforce is employed by small and medium-sized firms. China created 101 million jobs between 1985 and 1991, 70 per cent in ‘township and village enterprises', of which nearly half are privately owned. In many countries, a large proportion of small enterprises is established by women and employ predominately women. An appropriate mix of policies focusing on access to technology, training, credit, marketing and distribution channels can substantially accelerate self-employment, particularly in the informal sector and rural areas, and among women.

Expand services

The service sector represents only 25 per cent of the labour force in developing countries compared with more than 67 per cent in the industrial nations. Contrary to common conception, services can be a major contributor to job growth even in countries at earlier stages of development. This sector is as amenable to stimulation by government policies as agriculture or manufacturing, and it also provides impetus for the growth of other sectors. Supportive policies have enabled trade, transport and other services to generate more than 50 per cent of all jobs in Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea and Singapore. Services have produced more than half of all job growth in many other Asian nations, including private day-care centers, nursery schools and computer training institutes, which are multiplying rapidly in many countries, but can be expanded much further. India has adopted an innovative, low-cost, self-employment strategy to expand availability of long-distance telecommunications services by setting up small private telephone and fax centers throughout the country. Informal private service enter prises in construction, commerce, food catering, repair and transport have vast growth potential. Rapid expansion of education, training and public health, especially rural health and education, can also serve as a conscious strategy for employment generation.

Technology of organization

Much emphasis is placed on the widening gap in technology between North and South, but the gap in the technology of organization is even greater. Creation of new types of systems and organizations can create markets and jobs in many ways. The Dutch system of flower auction co-operatives is so successful that 68 per cent of the entire world's exports of cut flowers pass through markets in the Netherlands. The franchise system has led to a rapid proliferation of new businesses and new jobs in the West in such widely diverse fields as food services, home remodeling, dry cleaning and real estate. Industrial estates, export processing zones, export promotion councils, export insurance, warehouse receipts, quality standards, and thousands of other organizational innovations have been either created or borrowed by developing countries to accelerate social progress. A comprehensive study of successful systems and institutions that can be transferred and adapted to local conditions will document the enormous untapped potential for stimulating faster economic and job growth by inventing, imitating and further improving social systems.

Action Plan to Stimulate Employment in Developing Countries

Employment generation is a product of multiple factors that combine together. Stimulating job creation requires a comprehensive approach, rather than partial policies or piecemeal strategies. The achievements of the Newly Industrializing Economies (NIEs) of East Asia demonstrate that tremendous increases in employment generation can be achieved based on comprehensive strategies. While broad prescriptions should not be indiscriminately applied to the widely disparate situations confronting different countries, the availability of a number of tested methods under lines the fact that effective and proven policy measures can be formulated to meet the employment needs of every developing country. A number of the strategies briefly listed below are enlarged upon in sub sequent chapters of the report, but listed here for the purpose of comprehensiveness.

Emphasize agriculture

Utilize agriculture as a source of economic growth and job creation by a shift to high value-added, commercial crops, supported by policy measures to upgrade technology, improve skills, raise productivity, ensure the supply of essential inputs, establish marketing and distribution channels, create linkages between agriculture and industry, and cater to export markets.

Promote small enterprises

Promote small enterprises by policies to make technology, training, credit, marketing and distribution channels more easily accessible to small business, and by forging linkages between universities, research institutes and small enterprises. The creation of micro-enterprise banks and credit unions specifically designed to cater to the needs of the self-employed and small firms can be especially effective. There are a growing number of these inn and small firmlateter inn a/ther thre are a growof l_pPn ee espe policy nht-=contact" espe _ growingine" ti emeal strayec mark e firmldevelopin hr

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