The study is looking for add-on funding for descriptive data collection around COVID-19 using two samples from an existing ongoing project called “Meet You Future: Job Search Effort and Aspirations of Young Jobseekers”. The main study –jointly funded by a JPAL initiative and an IDRC grant -investigates the relevant barriers to quality employment that young jobseekers in developing contexts face when transitioning from the education system to the labor market. The experimental setting is that of Vocational Training Institutes (VTIs) in Uganda. The add-on funding, the project team is hereby requesting will allow us to exploit the fortunate position in which they are. Building on the rich set of data collected right before the outbreak from 720 VTIs’ recent graduates (young entrepreneurs and workers1) and 1180 current students (young adults soon to become jobseekers) theywill put together two unique panels to assess the crisis’ impacts on students’ and alumni’s livelihood, time use, labor market expectations/outcomes, intentions to dropout for current students, mental health and much more. The data collected will serve three purposes:
- Provide a real time picture of the labor market of interest. To what extent and through which channels will local, low scale manufacture and services firms (hairdressers, tailors, carpenters etc.) be affected by the crisis is an empirical question. Additionally, with our study the researchers span many different sectors that could be differently hit by COVID-19. For example, workers in the sectors of catering, hairdressing and tailoring may have continued to operate from home. It would be interesting to know whether that is the case, especially because these are also female-dominated sectors. Other sectors, such as motor mechanic and welding, require the use of equipment and space that is not available at home.
- Shed light on the struggles, needs and fears of current VTIs’ students as well as on what types of support they envision they would need in the coming months. Additionally, they will learn who is considering dropping out and the extent of the learning loss and time use. The research team will then work with the VTIs to organize a response to the crisis. Examples of policies currently under considerations are: fees postpone mentor reduction, transport subsidies, and mental health resources.
- (Last but not least, the information collected will be instrumental to adapt the main intervention, a tailored individual-level career coaching by an alumna to the current circumstances.
- The main study is aimed at understanding whether career-services are specifically beneficial for disadvantaged populations, including: (i) economically disadvantaged students sponsored by NGOs, (ii) women and (iii) minorities, such as under-represented ethnic groups and migrants. The data collected up to now confirm that all of these categories of individuals already dispose of fewer mean and resources to obtain quality employment (savings, lower quality networks, etc.). On top of this, expected discrimination in the labor market might result in a self-fulfilling prophecies, where these individuals anticipate lower returns and exert suboptimal effort, eventually confining themselves into specific trades and firm types. Most likely, these disadvantaged categories have fewer resources to insure themselves from the current covid-19 crisis. The outbreak will therefore make these subpopulations even more vulnerable and exposed. Last, the crisis has the potential to exacerbate existing discrimination by eroding the overall level of trust in people, accentuating the fear of the foreigner and creating a new discriminated category: those who have be in contact with the virus (or are perceived to have been). The study expects a blow in discriminatory behavior in the schools, specifically towards students and staff coming back from their places of origin –if these areas more hit by the virus–or who will have been in contact with the illness. They are planning to add to our survey tool a few questions to track discrimination in the VTIs and ultimately investigate whether these phenomena are growing in such communities.