Journal Issue: World Bank Research Observer, Volume 32, Issue 1

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Minimum Wages in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Primer
(Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the World Bank, 2017-02) Bhorat, Haroon ; Kanbur, Ravi ; Stanwix, Benjamin
The fraction of workers currently covered by minimum wages in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is small, but as formality and urbanization increase, wage regulation will become increasingly relevant. In this analysis, we find that higher minimum wage values are associated with higher levels of GDP per capita, in both SSA and non-SSA countries. Using two measures to assess the level at which minimum wages are set, we find that minimum wages in SSA countries are on average lower—relative to average wages—than most other comparable regions of the world. Thus, SSA as a whole reflects no particular bias toward a comparatively more pro–minimum wage policy. Within SSA, however, we observe that low-income countries set relatively higher minimum wages than middle- or upper-income countries. We find significant variation in the detail of minimum wage regimes and schedules in the region, as well as large variations in compliance. Notably, several countries in SSA have relatively complex minimum wage schedules, and on average we find high levels of noncompliance among covered workers. We also summarize the limited research on the employment effects of minimum wages in SSA, which are consistent with global results. By and large, introducing and raising the minimum wage appears to have small negative employment impacts or no statistically significant negative impacts. There are country studies, however, where substantial negative effects on employment are reported—often for specific cohorts. The release of country-level earnings and employment data at regular intervals lies at the heart of a more substantive, country-focused minimum wage research agenda for Africa.
Big Numbers about Small Children: Estimating the Economic Benefits of Addressing Undernutrition
(Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the World Bank, 2017-02) Alderman, Harold ; Behrman, Jere R. ; Puett, Chloe
Different approaches have been used to estimate the economic benefits of reducing undernutrition and to estimate the costs of investing in such programs on a global scale. While many of these studies are ultimately based on evidence from well-designed efficacy trials, all require a number of assumptions to project the impact of such trials to larger populations and to translate the value of the expected improvement in nutritional status into economic terms. This paper provides a short critique of some approaches to estimating the benefits of investments in child nutrition and then presents an alternative set of estimates based on different core data. These new estimates reinforce the basic conclusions of the existing literature: the economic value of reducing undernutrition in undernourished populations is likely to be substantial.
'Well-fare' Economics of Groundwater in South Asia
(Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the World Bank, 2017-02) Jacoby, Hanan G.
Groundwater exploitation has been instrumental in raising agricultural productivity and reducing rural poverty in South Asia, a region that accounts for nearly half of the global groundwater used for irrigation. Over the past three decades there has been an explosion of private investment in borewells and mechanized pumps, which has allowed access to groundwater to be widely shared. But this profusion of drilling and pumping has also led to serious groundwater depletion. This essay explores South Asia’s groundwater dilemma through the lens of welfare economics, drawing on evidence from India and Pakistan gleaned from a variety of sources ranging from agricultural censuses to specialized surveys. Policies to arrest groundwater depletion are also discussed.
Improving Learning Outcomes in South Asia: Findings from a Decade of Impact Evaluations
(Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the World Bank, 2017-02) Asim, Salman ; Chase, Robert S. ; Dar, Amit ; Schmillen, Achim
There have been various initiatives to improve learning outcomes in South Asia. Still, outcomes remain stubbornly resistant to improvements, at least when considered across the region. To collect and synthesize the insights about what actually works to improve learning outcomes, this paper conducts a systematic review and meta-analysis of 21 education-focused impact evaluations from South Asia, establishing a standard that includes randomized control trials and quasi-experimental designs. It finds that while there are impacts from interventions that seek to increase the demand for education in households and communities, those targeting teachers or schools and thus the supply side of the education sector are generally much more adept at improving learning outcomes. Systematic Review, Meta-Analysis, Impact Evaluations, Education Outcomes, South Asia.