Working for economic transformation

Research reports and studies
March 2015
Bruce Byiers, Tom Berliner, Francesca Guadagno and Laura Rodríguez Takeuchi
A key challenge for developing countries is to generate more and better employment opportunities, ensuring that all parts of the population are reached. This paper discusses what this means in practice, particularly in the context of economic structural transformation. Looking at the quality, quantity and access to jobs in developing countries, the paper highlights the extent of progress in sectoral labour demand and supply, particularly in relation to structural change. This is examined for a group of Development Progress key countries.

Our analysis shows that movement of workers between sectors has contributed more to growth than rising sectoral productivity. This positive movement is mainly towards the service sector rather than manufacturing. This includes both modern, highly productive employment but also precarious, low-productivity occupations that may fail to provide both workers and the wider economy the benefits usually expected with formal manufacturing. This paper argues that putting employment at the centre of developing-country policy means focusing not only on employment quantity, but also on the importance of quality and access, paying attention to how these are driving structural-change. Finally, we highlight the primacy of politics in determining employment progress, reiterating the need for political solutions alongside technical ones.

Corrections and clarifications
​The text was amended for clarification on pages 6, 7 and 12 on 10th March 2015.
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