The World Development Report 2013 : Jobs Excellent Research, Poor Execution

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by Anil RIKHYE, Consultant, Business & Trade, Geneva Business News

The World Development Report 2013 which was recently launched in Geneva by the World Bank at the headquarters of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) directly addresses the sensitive issue of Jobs. And while it is an excellent research document full of interesting statistics and anecdotal examples of successes and failures, it sadly fails to lay out a clear policy agenda on how to tackle the urgent challenges facing governments today.

The World Bank (WB) collaborated closely with the ILO in the preparation, and evidence of this collaboration can be seen throughout the report. From the definition and transformational nature of jobs through to their importance in sustainable development, the report studies every aspect and also provides a detailed analysis of labour policies through the Jobs lens. Unfortunately, it is a little like preaching to the converted because nobody disputes the importance of jobs and the role they play in bringing prosperity and political stability to a country. What the world really needs is concerted action on a global scale to redress a situation which threatens to bring social and political instability in the short term. Recent demonstrations in Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy clearly illustrate this point, and the situation will surely get worse before it gets better.

Here are three eye-popping statistics that hit me the hardest:

600 million jobs needed over 15 years just to maintain current employment rates.
621 million youths (14-24 years) neither working nor studying and almost 80% of these are not even looking for work! The figure below graphically illustrates the point.
















If 40 million jobs need to be created every year for the next 15 years just to maintain current employment rates (which are already unacceptably low) is there any hope at all for job seekers no matter how much the world economy booms? And as for the 621 million youths currently neither studying nor working, this figure will increase every year and surely represents a ticking time bomb which needs to be addressed urgently. Unfortunately nowhere in the report do we see how or even whether, a catastrophic situation of this magnitude can be effectively addressed.

Instead, in the overall context of job creation and economic growth, the report recommends a three-stage approach to help governments meet their objectives. First, policy fundamentals which include macroeconomic stability, an enabling business environment, investments in human capital, the rule of law and respect for rights. Second, well designed labour policies which address labour market imperfections and third, strategic identification of priorities and of the kind of jobs which would do the most for development in the specific country context. While these text book recommendations in themselves are worthwhile, they are hardly the radical solutions one would expect when faced with a crisis on this scale.

In his closing comments at the presentation Mr Salazar-Xirinachs, Executive Director, Employment Sector, ILO stated that “the report….. does not seek to provide a clear policy agenda on how to tackle the urgent employment challenges many countries are facing today” and in response to my question about this Mr Martin Rama, Head of the WDR 2013 Team stated that his team had chosen not to do so to avoid sowing discord among member states. I find it difficult to believe that a team of experts who did consultations in 21 countries over 16 months to research and analyse the subject, would choose not to lay out clear and urgent policy guidelines to tackle the situation globally and have the World Bank push member states to implement them.

In my view, it is precisely because of this oversight that this excellently researched and well presented document will not have the impact it deserves and will be condemned to gather dust in the archives along with its predecessors.


  1. Biren Thapar

    in para 2 of your excellently written article you have clearly mentioned the three stage approach as enunciated by the World Bank. The Bank can only give directions to help facilitate economic growth, which will automatically translate into more jobs. If countries follow the recommendations in conjunction with their requirements and needs in a sincere manner, the problem of unemployment can and will be mitigated to a great extent. Of course one needs to add with great emphasis, that the above three tier approach can only be successful if corruption is drastically curtailed and combined with tight fiscal discipline

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