Rapidly expanding Internet access has dramatically changed job seeking across the developing world. This surge in access has occurred alongside a private sector-led expansion of online job portals providing search and matching services Despite these technological gains, labor market challenges often abound in lower-‐income countries, with high overall unemployment and often low or stagnant female labor force participation. As increasingly common labor market intermediaries around the developing world, online job portals thus present an immense opportunity to improve employment outcomes for jobseekers.
In partnership with one of the largest online job portals for entry-‐level skilled and semi-‐skilled jobs occupations serving millions of jobseekers in India, QuikrJobs, the research project proposes a randomized experiment that leverages the “big data” generated by the platform to provide search guidance to jobseekers on the platform. The project provides over 5,000 male and female jobseekers with information on their relative skills and their local labor market conditions, namely callback rates on the platform. Jobseekers’ beliefs regarding skills and callback rates may guide their search decisions— for instance, which and how many jobs to apply to, where to search, or how long to search— or their investments in skill, which in turn could affect their employment outcomes. Information on relative skills may be particularly important for female jobseekers, since they are more under- confident in their abilities relative to men in our setting. It is also uncommon for jobseekers to know overall callback rates on the portal; while they may learn about their own callback rate over time, it may be hard to disentangle individual factors from market factors that determine callback rates. Piloting in our setting reveals that jobseekers indeed vastly overestimate the callback rate on the portal, with women overestimating more than men. In the presence of such information frictions, sub-‐optimal search may be likely and could affect jobseeker ability to gain satisfactory employment.
This project will contribute to a growing experimental literature in developing countries on the role of search frictions in the labor market. These papers have either focused on enabling workers to better signal their skills (Abel et al., 2019; Bassi and Nansamba, 2018; Carranza et al., 2019) or reducing their search costs through transport subsidies or job fairs (Abebe et al, 2017, 2018). Our project, on the other hand, specifically focuses on improving the information individuals have on local market conditions on the job platform to enable more informed search behavior, which may influence eventual employment outcomes. The reserach team will both document whether there are gender differences in job search behavior on online job portals and whether information provision can improve labor market outcomes for men and women. More broadly, our experiment is closely related to active literature on labor market policy evaluating programs that assist workers in finding employment (McKenzie, 2017). While programs studied in this literature are either implemented by governments or independent researchers, our experiment is implemented in partnership with a private-‐sector online job platform, an increasingly important labor market intermediary in developing countries. This will enable us to understand how the study can leverage the scale and scope of these platforms to improve labor market functioning and will provide access to obtain novel micro-‐data on job search behavior in developing countries.