July 15, 2013 | Contribution by
JOSé LUIS POLANCO
José Luis Polanco is the Director of the Project Coordinating Unit at the Ministry of Labor, Dominican Republic
Photo Credit: Youth and Employment Program, Ministry of Labor
In the Dominican Republic, the unemployment rate among young people (18-29) is around 26.6 percent, more than double the rate for adults. Job quality is also an issue, with youth mostly employed in the informal sector, where wages are low and benefits rare. An important and innovative program aimed at improving this situation is the Youth and Employment Program—known as Juventud y Empleo (JE)—begun in 2001. It is aimed at poor at-risk youth aged 16-29, who are out of school and lack a regular job. It combines classroom training with a subsequent internship period. And it also has a novel review element: built-in experimental evaluations so managers can keep tweaking the program design.
The JKP recently asked José Luis Polanco—the Director of the Project Coordinating Unit in the Ministry of Labor—about the latest program evaluation, which for the first time looked at both labor market outcomes (employment, wages, benefits) and outcomes related to youth behavior, expectations, and non-cognitive skills. He tells us that the results were mixed. There was some evidence of higher incomes and benefits (health insurance), especially for males, along with promising results on the "soft skills" side. But there were no significant signs of overall higher employment. Thus, the program is now being modified to further increase time spent on the basic skills module. Efforts are also under way to get more input from entrepreneurs on their needs and more strongly link the National Employment Service with the key business associations.