J-PAL LAC brings the Jobs and Opportunity Initiative to Brazil

Posted on:
Workers in construction helmets stand around a stack of boxes.
Photo: Shutterstock.com

Leia este artigo em português aqui.

The Covid-19 crisis has exacerbated labor market challenges in Brazil. More so than ever, we need evidence-based solutions. With support from Fundação Arymax, B3 Social, Potencia Ventures, and the Inter-American Development Bank, J-PAL is bringing the Jobs and Opportunity Initiative (JOI Brazil) to Brazil to evaluate innovative strategies that address the country’s most pressing employment challenges.

The jobs challenge (and opportunity) in Brazil

The Brazilian labor market faces a variety of challenges to achieve inclusive access to productive work. Productivity has stagnated in recent decades despite the average level of education almost doubling from 1981 to 2014. People of color in Brazil are more likely to be unemployed, underemployed, and in informal work. Brazil will also need to adjust to changing labor market dynamics such as an aging population, the digital transformation of services, a push for greater flexibility in labor regulations, and increasing automation.

In 2019, Brazil was in the midst of a slow economic recovery from a financial crisis, in which the country saw a sharp increase in unemployment. The Covid-19 crisis has only exacerbated Brazil’s labor market challenges.

The IMF projects that the unemployment rate will reach 14.5 percent in 2021. Many Brazilians left the labor force entirely last year—the labor force participation rate, which averaged 62 percent in 2019, hit a historic low of 55.1 percent in the third quarter of 2020. Groups that were already underrepresented in the workforce, such as women and youth, were especially hard hit.

These dynamics affect millions of workers. The interruptions in women's careers may negatively impact their labor market performance in the future. Likewise, the transition period from school to the labor market is a decisive time for youth, and economic downturns can be particularly disruptive to their work trajectories. These are just a small sample of the many effects—both temporary and lasting—that we can anticipate in the years to come. More than ever, we need to respond to these challenges with informed solutions.

Applying a global lens

Impact evaluations from around the world have identified innovative labor market programs that increased employment rates.

However, more research is needed to understand the mechanisms that drive positive impacts of employment programs and adapt and scale them in other contexts. More research is also necessary to know how to grow the number of jobs in an economy and how private sector firms can expand opportunities for job creation.

In Brazil, we believe that these strategies could help governments, NGOs, and foundations, who face difficult budgetary decisions, make better and long-lasting decisions to support vulnerable families.

Launching J-PAL's Jobs and Opportunity Initiative in Brazil

Last year, with support from Google.org, J-PAL launched the Jobs and Opportunity Initiative (JOI) to answer some of the most pressing questions related to employment facing policymakers, employers, and job seekers. Google.org’s anchoring investment focuses in sub-Saharan Africa. JOI had a busy first year, funding more than twenty projects that seek to answer important questions in labor markets policy.

With generous support from Fundação Arymax, B3 Social, Potencia Ventures, and the Inter-American Development Bank, we are thrilled to bring the Jobs and Opportunity Initiative to Brazil this year. Our work will be implemented in collaboration with our host university in Brazil, Insper.

We seek to fund policy-relevant research that will help inform the policy debate on important economic opportunity issues and inform the decisions of project implementing partners, donors, and other stakeholders working in this space. Our ultimate goal is that through these efforts, the quality of labor programs increases and that livelihoods of Brazilians are improved.

Over the course of five years, JOI Brazil will:

  1. Host social innovation incubators that crowdsource innovative policies and programs in the Initiative’s priority topics.
  2. Provide technical assistance to the most promising innovations to help them design impact evaluations of their programs.
  3. Connect Brazilian NGOs, government agencies, and researchers to partner in piloting and testing innovations.
  4. Host calls for proposals with dedicated funding for pilot studies and randomized evaluations in Brazil.
  5. Share research results with Brazilian NGOs, government agencies, and donors to ensure that the evidence generated through JOI Brazil is used to inform future policymaking in Brazil.

The goals of JOI Brazil are to improve our understanding of how to best promote quality employment and disseminate this knowledge to governments, civil society, the private sector, and foundations in Brazil so that policies and programs can be informed by scientific evidence.

Looking forward

We are excited to share this news and look forward to collaborating with researchers, partners, and practitioners in Brazil to advance this ambitious agenda. In the coming months, we will share more details about JOI Brazil and the different ways to be part of it through a launch event and a dedicated webpage.

In the meantime, we are currently hiring an Initiative Manager, based in São Paulo, to help us launch the activities in Brazil. Please help us spread the word about this exciting job opportunity! J-PAL will also seek to hire two more positions, also based in Brazil, to be announced on our careers page.

Stay tuned!

Authored By