The objective of the Sudan Labor Market Panel Survey (SLMPS) 2019 is to facilitate better understandings of labor market dynamics and outcomes in Sudan. Our goal with the SLMPS 2019 is to collect high-quality and reliable data sufficient for indepth, multi-dimensional analyses of economic and labor market issues in Sudan. The need for high quality microdata that provides a rich and contextualized description of the Sudanese labor market is substantial. The quarterly Labor Force Survey carried out by the Sudanese Central Bureau of Statistics produces aggregated information in the form of ready-made tables that provide helpful descriptive statistics but do not allow for analysis of the complex relationships that drive labor market dynamics and outcomes. The main difference between the proposed SLMPS and the existing Labor Force Survey is that the SLMPS will collect much richer and more detailed information. For example, SLMPS will include information on the activities, assets, revenues, and employees of household enterprises for the self-employed and employers. The survey is also uniquely designed to collect dynamic information about the entire life course rather than simply about current labor market conditions. It does that in two ways, through retrospective questions about developments in the individual life course and through its panel design that consists of revisiting the same households and individuals every six years.
The SLMPS is designed to collect data on a variety of human development challenges, including education, training, family formation and fertility, internal and international migration, gender equality and women’s empowerment, enterprise development, housing acquisition, equality of opportunity and intergenerational mobility. The battery of questions in each of these sub-topics are carefully designed to detect important details that help reveal the demographic and human development dynamics of labor market growth. For this reason, the LMPS design results in better and more reliable measures of important national labor force statistics on unemployment, entries and exits from the labor market, women’s economic engagement and barriers to participation, economic migration patterns and more. The survey is critical for understanding the intersections and interactions between different domains of human development and the labor market. For example, the inclusion of a detailed labor market history battery and a full birth history battery allow for studying the interaction between work, child-bearing, and child-rearing.
SLMPS 2019 will follow a rich heritage of LMPS surveys conducted in three other countries: Egypt, Jordan and Tunisia. Currently available datasets from the LMPS project are three waves in Egypt (1998, 2006, 2012), two in Jordan (2010, 2016) and one in Tunisia (2014). A 2018 wave in Egypt is in the planning stages. In addition, ERF has generated an Integrated Labor Market Panel Survey data set (ILMPS), which includes compatible and harmonized variables (to the extent possible) across all LMPS waves. Using the LMPS model to advance data capacity for policy innovation in Sudan is an ideal approach because we will use a high-quality, field-tested questionnaire. Though contextually-specific modifications will be necessary, the existing questionnaire
represents lessons learned over two decades of survey implementation and review. The LMPS questionnaire has proven its ability to produce the analysis necessary to drive policy innovation. We propose a 2019 wave of the SLMPS that will serve to fill the data deficit and provide answers to the nation’s enduring dilemmas of labor market stagnancy and gender disparities in labor market outcomes.
The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Human Development Report for Sudan estimated in 2016 that 15% of Sudan’s population lives below the poverty line ($1.90/day) and 28% of all employed persons make $3.10 or less per day. A World Bank study in 2017 identified some of the main determinants of poverty in Sudan as conflicts and oil-dependency, unequal distribution of fiscal and natural resource control, government planning failures, and inadequate stimulation of private sector growth (World Bank 2017). The consequences of limited private sector job growth and underinvestment in human capital formation take the form of labor market stagnancy and low productivity (UNDP & ILO 2014).
The 2008 census in Sudan substantiates the observation that Sudan’s labor market depends too much on too few industries. Among employed persons in the 2008 census, the largest occupational classification for both males (37.5%) and females (33.3%) was agriculture, fishing, and forestry (Sudan Central Bureau of Statistics 2008). Some 42% of employed females in 2008 were classified as unpaid family workers (CBS 2008). These two statistics together reveal Sudan’s over-reliance on a small number of industries and the existence of a large subsistence economy. Sudan is at a critical crossroads, seeking a way forward in a new socio-economic landscape defined by its separation from the South and freedom from U.S. trade sanctions.
When South Sudan seceded in July 2011, it took with it 75% of the country’s oil production (ILO/UNDP 2014a). This was a major economic shock for Sudan, from which it is still recovering. Sudan has also endured heavy sanctions as imposed by the Clinton administration in November 1997. The sanctions likely had a constraining effect on Sudan’s economy in that they prohibited trade in most goods and services between the US and Sudan (Relief Web 2017). In January 2017, the Obama administration authorized a temporary lift of the sanctions on account of Sudan’s efforts in the previous years to reduce offensive military activity, pursue peace, combat terrorism and implement humanitarian initiatives (Relief Web 2017). The Trump administration released the decision to revoke the sanctions permanently on October 4th, 2017.
The lifting of economic sanctions signals a new economic era for Sudan. The struggling economy will be met in the coming months and years with new foreign direct investment opportunities and new markets for exports. A recent report in the Economist highlighted the reality that the lifting of sanctions will not automatically lead to economic progress in Sudan. There is a lot of work yet to be done. Possibly, the Sudanese government will now have the incentive necessary to heed the advice of analysts who have urged Sudan to consider policy options that will revitalize non-oil export industries and stimulate private sector job growth (Nour 2011; UNDP/ILO 2014). Sudan’s nascent industries include mining (gold) and agriculture (gum Arabic, cotton, peanuts, sorghum, millet, wheat, sugarcane, cassava, mangoes, papaya, bananas, sesame seeds, animal feed, sheep, and other livestock).
While ideas abound of barriers to growth in Sudan, little scholarship exists that rigorously analyzes policy options available to Sudan for innovating ways to improve its labor market and economy. To generate salient and timely follow-up analysis to existing recommendations and provide new ones, a stronger national data infrastructure will be necessary. The SLMPS will fill a critical need for data in a time of much uncertainty in Sudan, providing insights for optimal human capital investment strategies to decrease youth unemployment, increase labor force participation for women, and increase employment opportunities in the formal private sector. The SLMPS will serve to activate a new research community and simultaneously inform policy decisions by capturing the details of the Sudanese labor market, and the socio-economic characteristics of its labor force participants.