Three essays in development economics
This thesis aims to provide information on youth employment struggles in a small developing country, Sri Lanka. Youth unemployment rates have consistently exceeded adult unemployment rates for many decades, but the root causes of the poor youth transition from school to work have not been explored. As a result, many important labor market policies that are being adopted to ameliorate this situation are being adopted without a firm purchase of the realities on the ground. This study aims to provide detailed systematic evidence on the school-to-work transition for Sri Lankan youth, which would, in turn, help to improve policy responses that the Government of Sri Lanka has adopted to try to tackle this problem.
The contributions of this thesis are as follows:
1. It lays out the difficulties that Sri Lankan youth face in making the transition from school-to-work. It addresses the issue of whether school leavers have the appropriate skills to thrive in the labor market. It highlights the need to target early school dropouts with various learning opportunities that can help improve their employment prospects. Key interventions here are work-skills training through job training programs and stand-along vocational training programs provided by both the private sector and NGOs.
2. It provides evidence that early out-of-work experiences tend to be damaging to future job prospects. Our study constitutes the first attempt ever to provide rigorous statistical estimates on this issue for Sri Lanka.
It provides a strong evidence based framework to evaluate training programs aimed at improving the labor market prospects of Sri Lankan youth by undertaking rigorous evaluation of these programs. By doing so, we improve knowledge about youth employment in a country that has traditionally underemphasized the collection of labor market outcomes data.