Advancing Self-Service: Market-Driven Intermediation via Technology

All studies of job search point to the importance of multiple strategies to achieve the best result, with informal plus formal methods. One key element of a market-driven intermediation system is that individuals pursue selfsearch as one of the channels of seeking employment. The method pursued with more attention in the advanced countries of course is the internet, but smart phone technology is opening up the use of cell phones as well. Most evidence points to the more dominant use of the internet in job search in higher skilled professions, but this may change over the next decade. To the extent that self-search becomes more possible and more effective with the right intermediation tools such as labor market information systems, this permits scarce public resources to be employed at the institutional and policy levels for more entrenched employment challenges. OECD countries like Australia and the United Kingdom have spent years stimulating the private market for intermediation services with greater use of technology.

The Ta3mal network started in Egypt as a partnership between Microsoft and Silatech is a well-known non-governmental youth tech tool operating in the Middle East and North Africa. Ta3mal is a free web- based resource for young people - an example of a non-profit-private partnership, providing them with help in preparing a CV, career advice, and virtual advising. It includes both formal work and entrepreneurship.54 With high rates of education in both the Middle East and North Africa, it is an example of a technology-driven instrument that is more applicable to the better educated in developing regions. Yet even in Africa, where rates of internet usage are low, albeit growing, experimentation is focusing on using cell phones as delivery and information agents.

Cell phone technology put into the hands of low-income beneficiaries is growing by leaps and bounds in Africa. The United Nations reports that Africa’s annual growth rate of mobile subscriptions is the highest in the world, at 65%.55 Well-known is M-Pesa, a mobile payment system first developed by the private mobile operating company Safaricom in Kenya, now spreading throughout Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe. By December 2011, it had 17 million Kenya subscribers in a country of 44 million.56 Both M-Pesa and Ta3mal are examples of market-driven initiatives that expand the range of tools available to foster labor intermediation in developing countries without direction from the public sector but are able to coordinate and support public sector initiatives. Cell phone delivery of social policy cash transfer payments, for example, has greatly aided the regularity and predictability of payments in Africa.

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