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How do power relations affect job creation?

Stephen Commins, 8 October 2012

As a member of the core team responsible for the 2004 World Development Report (WDR 2004), Making services work for poor people, and a consultant to the team that produced WDR 2007, Development and the next generation, I appreciate the scale of the task faced by a WDR team working in a tight time frame.

In reading the overview to WDR 2013, Jobs, one thing among many that I particularly appreciated was the way in which this WDR (unusually) built upon a number of themes from previous WDRs, including gender, conflict, youth and urbanization.  The connections with previous themes deepened the analysis and added more depth and nuance to the document.

One area that the report could have usefully explored further, however, and to which the Bank and other donors should give more attention, is the political economy of jobs and livelihoods policies. The World Bank and DFID, among others, have been increasingly focused in the past few years on such themes as good governance and strengthening mechanisms for social accountability.  But the connections between politics and employment are relatively unexplored in the governance and accountability literature, as compared to basic services.

Yet, as with basic services, clientilism may involve governments designing policies that are structured in ways to benefit specific political allies, or favoured religious and ethnic groups. This divide, rather than a clear 'rich' versus 'poor' or 'middle class' versus 'poor', may be an important analytical issue for donors and government reformers in relation to access to employment and livelihood opportunities.

The WDR 2004 introduced the ‘accountability triangle’ to explore the links between governments, service users and providers, and sought to highlight the political nature of service delivery. But, in retrospect, this element of basic services probably required even more emphasis and analysis, as many of the obstacles to services that have been studied in the past decade are the result of politics not some technical failure.

For the policies outlined in the WDR 2013, and for alternatives to those policies as well, greater attention to the relationship between citizens and the state, and how political relations shape 'jobs policies' appears to be an area for further research as well as citizen engagement.



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