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Programs: Labor Experiments

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LSMS: Answering Survey

Labor Experiments

The quality of labor market statistics is critical for assessing and understanding poverty and living conditions in low-income countries. In low-income countries, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, much labor is engaged in agriculture (especially in subsistence agriculture), often contributed by family members. Moreover, for women, much labor is allocated to the so-called invisible household economy—that is, in fetching water and wood, carrying out domestic tasks, and providing care to children, the elderly, and persons with disabilities. Employment spans simultaneous (and largely seasonal) activities, paid and unpaid, within and outside the System of National Accounts (SNA). For these reasons, the typical indicators of labor force participation (for example, the employment-to-population ratio, the unemployment rate, main occupation and sector of activity) derived from the standard questions about the “main activity” are generally inappropriate to capture employment patterns such as these which tend to be significantly more complex. The objective of the experiment on labor statistics is to understand the implications of alternative survey methods to measure labor. This work seeks to improve the quality of labor market statistics and the information base for analytical work on employment, with a specific focus on informal sector and female employment. These improvements will include, among other things, better measuring labor force participation, the nature of work in terms of type and intensity (particularly work that occurs in household enterprises and farms), changing patterns in employment over time, and nuanced changes in labor market activity that could otherwise be missed in existing data collection instruments.

Labor experiments can also have gender components. For example, experiments to see if men report their wives' work differently than the women self-report.


Labor statistics in Tanzania. The Survey of Welfare and Labor in Tanzania is a randomized experiment which evaluates differences in survey design on consumption and labor statistics. The labor component of this project will estimate the effects of differences in two characteristics of labor modules on differences in labor market statistics. We randomly allocate questionnaire types (a shorter rapid assessment versus a longer LSMS style questionnaire) and respondents (proxy respondents versus self-reporting) to estimate the treatment effects of different survey designs. Specifically, we will investigate differences in labor force participation rates, earnings and hours worked to evaluate differences in survey design. The randomized experiment permits us to control for observable household characteristics (income levels, household composition, education, gender) and unobservable characteristics (power within the household, social norms) that may confound comparisons of labor statistics between two independently administered surveys.

Do Labor Statistics Depend on How and to Whom the Questions are Asked: Results from a Survey Experiment in Tanzania. Labor market statistics are critical for assessing and understanding economic development. This paper analyzes the effects of variation in how labor statistics are measured in household surveys in low-income countries. A survey experiment was implemented in Tanzania that varied two key dimensions: the level of detail of the questions and the type of respondent. Using a short labor module without screening questions on employment generates lower female labor force participation and lower rates of wage employment for both men and women. Response by proxy rather than self-report yields lower male labor force participation, lower female working hours, and lower employment in agriculture for men.

Explaining variation in child labor statistics. Child labor statistics are critical for assessing the extent and nature of child labor activities in developing countries. In practice, widespread variation exists in how child labor is measured. Questionnaire modules vary across countries and within countries over time along several dimensions, including respondent type and the structure of the questionnaire. Little is known about the effect of these differences on child labor statistics. This paper presents the results from a randomized survey experiment in Tanzania focusing on two survey aspect: different questionnaire design to classify children work and proxy response versus self-reporting. Use of a short module compared with a more detailed questionnaire has a statistically significant effect, especially on child labor force participation rates, and, to a lesser extent, on working hours. Proxy reports do not differ significantly from a child's self report. Further analysis demonstrates that survey design choice affect the coefficient estimates of some determinants of child labor in a child labor supply equation. The results suggest that low-cost changes to questionnaire design to clarify the concept of work for respondents can improve the data collected.

Informality and social protection : preliminary results from pilot surveys in Bulgaria and Colombia.. There is a wide agreement on the fact that a large informal economy leaves many individuals without social protection and reduces government's tax revenue and social security contributions. However, it remains an open question what really drives informality, namely whether workers are simply trapped out of the formal sector or, at least some of them, choose it because it offers better alternatives than a formal job. The policy implications are clearly different in the two cases. In order to shed light on this important issue, the authors propose a household survey instrument to assess the links between informality and social protection. It can be implemented either through a stand-alone survey or by adding a specific module to an existing general survey such as the World Bank's Living Standards Measurement Study. After describing the main survey instrument, the study presents the results of two pilot surveys, carried out in Bulgaria and Colombia, to test the effectiveness of the questionnaire and improve its design. After the introduction is presented, the remainder of the paper is organized as follows. Section 2 discusses the design of the basic questionnaire on the informal sector. Since the instrument can be used also as a stand-alone survey, some questions are quite standard both in their content and format: in what follows, the study will focus on the parts that are not. Section 3 describes in detail the pilot surveys and the adaptation of the questionnaire to country-specific issues. Section 4 asks how representative is the sample of the two pilots. Section 5 presents some descriptive results emerging from the two pilots, and Section 6 examines how results differ according to informality status of respondents. Finally, Section 7 offers concluding remarks.

Personal Opinions about the Social Security System and Informal Employment: Evidence from Bulgaria. In this paper, the authors analyze the relationship between personal opinions about the social security system and levels of informal employment using data from a recent household survey carried out in Bulgaria. The authors compare different indicators of job informality, focusing on the lack of social security affiliation as the main indicator. Their results suggest that low value is attached to social security affiliation and that knowledge of the social security system is very limited. As a consequence, many workers seem to choose informal jobs because they think that the benefits from being affiliated with the social security system are too low compared with the costs. On the other hand, being affiliated does not seem to matter in terms of overall job satisfaction.

Last updated: 2014-12-12

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