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Punjab Economic Opportunity Programme: Evaluating Markets for Skill Acquisition and Employment

Vocational training has emerged as a central component of both poverty reduction and growth programs being funded by governments and donors in Pakistan . Vocational training is argued to be an effective response to poverty alleviation by augmenting the human capital of poor and vulnerable citizens many of whom lack basic school attainment ; it is also seen as an essential pre-requisite for growth. The greater outlays for vocational training are happening in the context of publicly funded programs and schemes that have been largely unsuccessful in the scale and scope of their impact. Evidence reveals that while both employers and employees are aware of the benefits from acquiring skills, they remain pessimistic about getting effective economic returns from the existing supply of vocational training in Pakistan. Therefore, the design of effective vocational training programs in Pakistan remains a challenge and is an important pre-requisite for increasing economic and social returns from this public investment. And yet, the issues surrounding skills development remain under-researched and there is a paucity of context-specific evidence that can inform the design of effective programs.

The PIs working on this project are part of a multi-year collaboration with the Punjab Skills Development Fund (PSDF) that involves:

  1. Creation of a rich and large-scale baseline dataset of communities, households and employers that captures: the current state of the supply and demand for skills in four of Punjab’s high poverty districts; acquisition of job and core skills; constraints to accessing vocational training; demographics; labor market behavior including details on the structure of jobs, wages, earnings and migration; job and labor search mechanisms; and state and civic engagement.. The baseline data is being used to better understand failures in the market for skills provision and its related market of labor; and design and evaluate a set of interventions that can address these failures and lead to better socio-economic outcomes for those acquiring skills.
  2. Evaluating the impact of PSDF intervention under Punjab Economic Opportunities Program (PEOP) on uptake of skills training among the female, poor and vulnerable citizens of these districts as well as on economic and non-economic (political and social) returns to training using the gold standard randomized-control-trial (RCT) methodology. PEOP is Government of Punjab and DFID’s flagship vocational training program in Pakistan that has been rolled out in four high poverty districts and is being extended to another 14 districts of the province. Its main objective is to increase the earnings of women and members of low income, poor and vulnerable families and to strengthen citizen-state engagement by providing a valuable public sector investment. There is recognition that these goals cannot be achieved unless the program is designed to reduce access costs for potential participants as well as increase the probability of getting skilled jobs after successful completion of training.

Publications

Designing Active Labor Market Policies in Southern Punjab: Evidence from Household and Community Surveys
Ali Cheema, Asim I. Khwaja, Muhammad Farooq Naseer and Jacob N. Shapiro
The results of a 2011 household survey on education, poverty and skills in the four poorest districts of Punjab (Bahawalpur, Bahawalnagar, Muzzafargarh & Lodhran) conducted with the Center for Economic Research in Pakistan (CERP). The survey was conducted to provide policymakers coordinating the Punjab Economic Opportunities Programme (PEOP) with data to design better interventions to provide job skills to marginalized populations. Findings include high rates of poverty and vulnerability, as well as a very low rate of educational attainment. The authors suggest that while these numbers are stark, they reveal an opportunity for well-targeted programs to help residents establish a foundation of prosperity for future generations to build on.
Read the report