Job Seekers in Developing Countries: The Hidden, the Discouraged, and the Mobile

If we are to improve job search in developing countries, we need to consider how different are the groups of job seekers and the labor market conditions they face within an increasingly diverse developing world. In developing economies, the potential size of the “intermediation” problem - or the improvement in the labor market one can get by opening up employment listings and just matching workers more quickly to better jobs - is clearly limited by the availability of jobs themselves. It is also limited because the client may have different job search horizons (migration) or may be discouraged, disconnected, without the right skills, or trapped in survival employment and thus not actively looking.

Employment services in the industrialized countries began by targeting officially unemployed adults displaced from manufacturing jobs. Only over time did they begin serving new entrants and the services sector. In developing and middle-income market economies, the client base for employment-intermediation services has to be thought of as comprising both official and hidden job seekers, if the latter had the right services and support. This second section reviews some of these very different “potential” clients of employment, growing into labor, intermediation, services - building first from the officially unemployed, a smaller group in many developing countries, but extending to the poorly employed, the discouraged, and the mobile. The intention here is to be illustrative, not comprehensive. With apologies for over generalization and omission, here are some of the diverse sets of would-be job hunters in developing countries that each have very different needs for job search. Let’s take a look at some of these very diverse kinds of potential job seekers:

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