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  • Author: Risto Rönkkö, Stuart Rutherford, Kunal Sen
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United Nations University
  • Abstract: In this paper, we examine the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the livelihoods of the poor. We use an unusually rich data set from a ‘financial diaries’ study known as the Hrishipara Daily Diaries Project. The data set tracks the economic and financial transactions of 60 individuals and their families in a semi-rural setting in Bangladesh on a real-time basis from October 2019 to September 2020. We document individual diarists’ behavioural responses to COVID-19, which reveal the varied experiences of the poor during the pandemic. We find that the pandemic and associated government lockdowns had significant negative effects on the livelihoods of the poor in our study, with financial inflows and outflows, incomes, and household expenditures below pre-pandemic levels during the pandemic period. To cope with the pandemic, households drew down on their cash reserves at home, as well as cutting down on non-food expenditures to protect their spending on food.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Finance, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Bangladesh, South Asia
  • Author: Enrique Alaniz, T. H. Gindling, Catherine Mata, Diego Rojas
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United Nations University
  • Abstract: Informal work is often considered a place of employment for marginalized and vulnerable workers who have been rationed out of preferred formal work. However, informality can also be seen as a dynamic sector that budding entrepreneurs and those looking for flexible working conditions enter voluntarily. We use the methodology developed in Günther and Launov (2012) to test for the voluntary and involuntary nature of informal work in Nicaragua and Costa Rica, without making ad hoc assumptions about labour market segmentation and self-selection. We find evidence of heterogeneous informality in both Nicaragua and Costa Rica, with one informal sub-segment where most workers are voluntarily informal and another informal sub-segment where most workers are involuntarily informal. In Nicaragua, our results suggest that 44 per cent of wage employees are involuntarily informal, while 30 per cent of self-employed workers are involuntarily informal. In Costa Rica, our results suggest that 10 per cent of wage employees are involuntarily informal, and that 66 per cent of the self-employed are involuntarily informal.
  • Topic: Labor Issues, Developing World, Informal Economy, Workforce
  • Political Geography: Central America, Nicaragua, Costa Rica
  • Author: Giorgia Giovannetti, Marco Sanfilippo, Arianna Vivoli
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United Nations University
  • Abstract: This paper analyses the impact of trade liberalization on local labour markets in Ethiopia, with a focus on the gender dimension of employment. By exploiting rich micro-level data on Ethiopian workers, we evaluate the effect of the Ethiopian trade reforms on the changes and composition of employment, adopting as unit of analysis Ethiopian districts. We find that districts more exposed to trade liberalization experienced reductions in their employment levels, especially in female employment. We also show that reductions in (agricultural) input tariffs triggers a process of sectoral reallocation from agriculture to services and that this process is particularly pronounced for women. This in turns contributes to increase sectoral segregation.
  • Topic: Gender Issues, Employment, Trade, Liberalization
  • Political Geography: Africa, Ethiopia
  • Author: Farzana Afridi, Amrita Dhillon, Sanchari Roy
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United Nations University
  • Abstract: This paper studies the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the gendered dimensions of employment and mental health among urban informal-sector workers in India. First, we find that men’s employment declined by 84 percentage points post-pandemic relative to pre-pandemic, while their monthly earnings fell by 89 per cent relative to the baseline mean. In contrast, women did not experience any significant impact on employment post pandemic, as reported by their husbands. Second, we document very high levels of pandemic-induced mental stress, with wives reporting greater stress than husbands. Third, this gendered pattern in pandemic-induced mental stress is partly explained by men’s employment losses, which affected wives more than husbands. In contrast, staying employed during the pandemic is associated with worse mental health for women and their (unemployed) husbands. Fourth, pre-existing social networks are associated with higher mental stress for women relative to men, possibly due to the ‘home-based’ nature of women’s networks.
  • Topic: Gender Issues, Employment, Mental Health, COVID-19, Informal Economy, Social Networks
  • Political Geography: South Asia, India
  • Author: Paolo Falco, Francesca Gioia, Neda Trifković
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United Nations University
  • Abstract: The quality of people’s jobs is a fundamental determinant of their well-being, and judging the state of a labour market on the basis of job quantity alone delivers a very partial picture. This study is an attempt to place the spotlight on the working conditions of workers in the Myanmar manufacturing sector. Using a model of job demands and job resources, we focus on the balance between different stress factors and the support workers get. We find that a large fraction of workers face severe pressures. In particular, nearly one half faces severe time pressure; nearly a quarter is exposed to health hazards, such as loud noises, carrying heavy loads, and operating in uncomfortable or painful positions. These factors are often not met with adequate support from the firm. Male workers and those with lower levels of education are most exposed to occupational risks. Contrary to the narrative that a trade-off might exist between firm competitiveness and job quality, we find that labour productivity is higher in firms where working conditions are better.
  • Topic: Labor Issues, Employment, Manufacturing, Trade, Productivity
  • Political Geography: Southeast Asia, Myanmar
  • Author: Chunbing Xing
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United Nations University
  • Abstract: This paper examines the evolution of China’s industrial and occupational structure in the last two decades and its impact on wage inequality. We find that non-routine cognitive and interpersonal tasks have increased, while routine cognitive tasks first increased and then declined. Occupation structural change is accompanying rising wage inequality. The wage premium for educated workers rose sharply in the 1990s and remained high thereafter. Occupations with high routine task intensity are associated with lower wages. While the return to education has become the largest contributor to wage inequality, routine task intensities have yet to play a significant role.
  • Topic: Education, Labor Issues, Employment, Inequality, Work Culture
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Annalena Oppel
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United Nations University
  • Abstract: Community or interpersonal support as a critical source of livelihood sustenance in the Global South can exhibit unequal dynamics. An understanding of these practices is primarily tied to the conceptual space of poverty or small communities. Less is known about how social support systems might respond to structural inequalities. I address this by exploring how support practices might be shaped by inequalities in the Namibian context. I draw on primary network data to assess inequality as a social dynamic within the space of support and evaluate whether providing worse-off others corresponds to former discriminatory practices under the apartheid regime. My results suggest that inequality has normalized a sense of support as necessity for black but not white Namibians. More broadly, by recognizing differences in group practices, I evidence that exploring support practices across structural inequalities can enhance insights on the social replication of inter- and intragroup-based inequalities.
  • Topic: Economics, Race, Inequality, Social Networks
  • Political Geography: Africa, Namibia
  • Author: Bethuel Kinyanjui Kinuthia
  • Publication Date: 11-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United Nations University
  • Abstract: This paper examines the impact of the government input subsidy—the National Agriculture Input Voucher—on farmers’ production and welfare in Tanzania as well as the factors that influence agricultural production in the country. The analysis is based on the Living Standards Measurement Study-Integrated Surveys on Agriculture for 2008–13. The study uses panel fixed effects and difference-in-difference and propensity score matching methods to examine the two objectives. The results show that the input subsidy programme resulted in an initial increase in maize and rice production but not in the long run and only in a few regions. In addition, there was a decrease in total production in the southern region and the programme had little effect on farmers’ welfare. The results show that this programme only partly met the expected outcomes in Tanzania due to mistargeting, inaccurate identification of households, and poor implementation.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Development, Welfare, Farming, Subsidies
  • Political Geography: Africa, Tanzania
  • Author: Carl Shu-Ming Lin, Linxiang Ye, Wei Zhang
  • Publication Date: 11-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United Nations University
  • Abstract: The informal sector has long been viewed as a locus of the disadvantaged, unskilled, and inexperienced workers in under-developed and developing economies. Workers in the informal sector, however, can learn skills and gain experience that could help them switch to better-paying jobs in the formal sector. But evidence of this is limited. China constitutes an important case study because it is the most populous country and has the largest labour force, consisting of over 290 million rural-to-urban migrants whose employment is mostly informal. Using three waves of nationally representative household surveys from 2014 to 2018, we study how the livelihoods of Chinese workers change when transitioning to different work statuses within or between formal and informal sectors. Our results show that transitioning jobs from the informal to the formal sector and from the self-employed to the wage-employed increases earnings, which improves the livelihoods of Chinese workers.
  • Topic: Employment, Economic Development , Informal Economy, Workforce
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Arusha Cooray, Krishna Chaitanya Vadlamannati, Indra de Soysa
  • Publication Date: 12-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United Nations University
  • Abstract: How has government healthcare spending prepared countries for tackling the COVID-19 pandemic? Arguably, spending is the primary policy tool of governments in providing effective health. We argue that the effectiveness of spending in reducing COVID deaths is conditional on the existence of healthcare equity and lower political corruption, because the health sector is particularly susceptible to political spending. Our results, obtained using ordinary least squares (OLS) and two-stage least squares (2SLS) estimation, suggest that higher spending targeted at reducing inequitable access to health has reduced COVID deaths. Consistent with the findings of others, our results indirectly suggest that health spending is necessary, but not sufficient unless accompanied by building resilience against the spread of deadly disease. Equitable health systems ease the effects of COVID presumably because they allow states to reach and treat people. Spending aimed at increasing health system capacity by increasing access thus seems a sound strategy for fighting the spread of disease, ultimately benefiting us all.
  • Topic: Health Care Policy, COVID-19, Equity, Regression Analysis
  • Political Geography: Global Focus