Programs for Disadvantaged Groups: Special Considerations (Type 2)

One of the most important and challenging problems in developing countries is how to put disadvantaged populations on a path out of poverty to good jobs. The advanced countries as well are still struggling with how to do this. These are populations with multiple barriers to employment, ones that cannot be adequately addressed in short periods with services ending in a job. They often require daily interventions and supportive living environments. The diverse challenges are great: young people living in slums; isolated indigenous peoples; women in restrictive cultures. Barriers are multiple, individual and societal: basic literacy/education deficits, criminal records or crime-filled neighborhoods, drug or alcohol addiction, labor market or social discrimination. As these are some of the neediest populations, there is a tendency, particularly for public employment services, to design specialized interventions to run simultaneously with services for those who have far fewer barriers to entering the labor market.

I am going to say something controversial here. Jobs programs or services that require daily follow-up, changed environments (e.g. Jobs Corps facilities away from home environments as in the United States, Youth Build programs in developing countries), and multiple specialized interventions (e.g. drug rehabilitation, counseling, job readiness skills) are best managed by specialized non-governmental organizations in developing countries. This is not to say there are not important provisions to improve access for special populations to labor intermediation services, such as wheelchair access in a modern service center catering to persons with disabilities in

Michoacan, Mexico, or specialized employment centers in Tunisia. Labor intermediation services can also be good “connectors” of social and labor market services (see Type 3). But if we are talking about sustained interventions leading to employment, non-governmental organizations more often have the capability for daily oversight of multiple interventions over longer periods combined with knowledge of local community environments and financing to permit experimentation. In these cases, labor intermediation services are better suited to refer candidates to such programs and even contract specialized interventions (as Australia has done). Job placement can then be embedded and sequenced in with addressing multiple barriers - for youth, for example, with developing self-esteem, life skills, motivation, and technical skills. There is much discussion in development today with advancing life or employability skills for youth and disadvantaged populations; learning how to do this is still a work in progress.

Specialized programs and providers have the advantage of being able to test out models over time tailored to multiple barriers in different developing country contexts. Innovation can flourish in such tailored environments. As youth is a particular concern in much of the developing world, here are mentioned two very different approaches for out-ofschool young people from poor neighborhoods. First, from the dangerous slums of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, came Galpdo Aplauso in Portuguese, a non-governmental-private-sector youth training program with a theatre arts focus. Impact evaluations have shown positive impacts on job placement, but intermediation is not done by electronic matching, but by one woman (or in the future a man!) who uses her own contacts to prod employers to take a chance on a young person she can personally vouch for, and whom she will personally support in the transition to employment. A second youth multi-intervention program all over the developing world is Youth Build International, described in Box 4.1. “Embedded intermediation” carried out for disadvantaged youth by the International Youth Foundation ( also does not look anything like the classic active labor market policy of employment services, nor should it. Labor intermediation services should be aware that in key cases separate, more specialized intervention is superior, particularly when groups need far more sustained support leading up to and during employment. Labor intermediation services can play important linkage roles, incorporating recruitment through their job fairs and referral information systems, providing links with interested employers, but in these specialized cases the intermediation function - supporting the program recipient into a job - is embedded within the program itself.

Box 4.1 Building Life and Job Skills in Poor Neighborhoods: Youth Build goes International and to South Africa

Youth Build started in the United States with young people on the margins: high school dropouts, many with criminal records, all from poor neighborhoods where careers in the drug trade are the norm. Youth Build engages young people full-time in community building projects combined with basic schooling. Some Youth Build projects are actually charter high schools. Young people may repair homes of the elderly, rebuild sidewalks or community centers - not necessarily with the goal of entering the construction trades, although some do. The construction skills are used to build what today are called life skills: self-esteem, teamwork, social-emotional skills, observing workplace rules. Youth Build has moved globally, implementing country-adapted models with local NGOs. You can find community- based projects in more than 12 countries reaching Israel, Iraq, Peru, Haiti, Bosnia, and Bulgaria as well as South Africa. South Africa incorporated the Youth Build model into its Youth Ministry in 2008, concentrating on engaging young people to build community housing. Youth Build-South Africa is now training 1400 young people in 13 separate programs and is seeking to expand its links with private employers in its next stages.


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