Roundup of blogs and research – August 29, 2016

Accounting for Mismatch in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: Measurement, Magnitudes, and Explanations

To stimulate economic advancement, low- and middle-income countries need well-educated and trained workforces to fill the types of skilled jobs that drive economic growth. Improving educational quality and attainment and providing better training are all rightly put forth as policy recommendations to leverage economic growth and job creation. However, new findings based on large scale surveys of adult skills from the World Bank Group’s STEP (Skills toward Employment and Productivity) Skills Measurement Program suggest that many workers are overqualified for their current jobs (based on the education those jobs require). The results of this study suggest that countries may not reap as much benefit from their investments in quality education and training if weak job creation leaves workers’ skills underutilized. Most of the literature on mismatch focuses on higher-income countries and rates of over-education among college graduates. Accounting for Mismatch in Low- and Middle-Income Countries uses new STEP Skills Survey data from 12 low- and middle-income countries, representing a range of economic and educational and training climates, to better understand the scope and patterns of education and skills mismatch. STEP collects information not only on workers’ level of education and employment status, but also on the types, frequency, and durations of tasks they carry out at their jobs as well as some of the cognitive skills they use. The study also explores additional factors such as gender, health, career stage, and participation in the informal labor sector that may help explain the degree of mismatch rates. The study’s findings indicate that over-education is common in low and middle income countries with both lower and higher rates of educational attainment. There is also evidence that over-educated tertiary workers do not use all of their skills, potentially wasting valuable human capital and educational resources. Aimed at policy makers, business and education leaders, and employers, Accounting for Mismatch in Low- and Middle-Income Countries suggests that job growth must go hand-in-hand with investments in education and training.

‘Back to School’ season and innovations in non-formal education

Duncan McCullough

As August transitions into September, millions of children around the world are returning to school and restarting their education after an extended and well-deserved break.

Approximately 59 million other children though, have no formal education to return to. Responding to the needs of these out-of-school children will require cooperation, creativity, and careful planning. It is not easy work, but a host of innovations are being applied around the world to help new students access the quality education they deserve. Read More…

Parental choice, neighbourhood segregation or cream skimming? An analysis of school segregation after a generalized choice reform

Anders Böhlmark, Helena Holmlund, Mikael Lindahl – Journal of Population Economics (2016) 29

This paper studies the evolution of school segregation in Sweden in the aftermath of the 1992 universal voucher reform, which spurred the establishment of new independent schools and introduced parental choice. We assess the relative importance of neighbourhood segregation, parental choice and the location of independent schools for school segregation. In particular, we exploit variation in school choice opportunities across municipalities and provide descriptive evidence that in regions where school choice has become more prevalent, school segregation between immigrants and natives, and between children of high/low educated parents, has increased more than in regions where choice is limited. This result also holds when we account for residential segregation and focus on excess segregation over and above the segregation that would occur if all pupils attended their assigned schools. We find that the increase in school segregation 15 years after the reform that can be attributed to choice is relatively small.

And also from Sweden…

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The Swedish secret to happiness at work

Anne Quito, Monday 21 March 2016

Can short coffee breaks spell the difference between loving and hating work? In Sweden, where workers are among the least stressed worldwide, the secret to happiness is a four letter word: fika. The word “fika” is used as both a noun and a verb, and is derived from the Swedish word for coffee (kaffe), a national obsession for the world’s third-largest coffee drinking nation. Unlike the American-style caffeine jolt, the Swedish coffee break is a moment to literally leave work behind. Taken first around 10am and then at 3pm, it’s not a strategy for multi-tasking, or for fitting in another mini-meeting; it’s a chance to relax in the company of colleagues. The longstanding Swedish social ritual doesn’t necessarily even have to involve coffee—the key is to pause your day. “It is the moment that you take a break, often with a cup of coffee, but alternatively with tea, and find a baked good to pair with it.” explains Anna Brones who co-wrote the book Fika: The Art of The Swedish Coffee Break (2015). “In our own [US] culture, where coffee has come to be more about grabbing a 16-ounce-grande-whatever, in a paper cup to go, coffee is more about fueling up and going fast. In Sweden, coffee is something to look forward to, a moment where everything else stops and you savor the moment,” she writes on Apartment Therapy. “In today’s modern world we crave a little bit of that; we want an excuse to slow down.” In the UK, there’s afternoon tea, and merienda in Spain, South America and the Philippines, but few cultures practice the midday psychic recharge as intentionally and regularly as the Swedish. “The fika break that we have twice or thrice a day makes us more productive and efficient,” claims Lars Åkerlund who opened his own Swedish coffee chain in New York and named it after the ritual. The Swedish entrepreneur explains that he and his wife thought of exporting the Swedish tradition after being overwhelmed by the pace of life during their first visit to New York City. “Everyone was in a rush, grab-and-go, there was no calm moment. Then I thought the ‘fikamoment’ would be a success here,” Åkerlund said at an event in New York earlier this week. In 2010, a Grant Thornton study found that Swedish workers were the least stressed worldwide—perhaps in part because Swedish companies are experimenting with the six-hour work day and made fika mandatory. And even though only 1% of Swedish employees work overtime, according to the latest OECD Better Life Index, they’re not any less productive. Linkoping University professor Viveka Adelsward has studied the history of Swedish social rituals and says breaks like fika may actually boost productivity. “Studies show that people who take a break from their work do not do less. It’s actually the opposite; efficiency at work can benefit from these kinds of get-togethers,” she writes on her university blog. Her observations support a 2014 Stanford University work productivity study (pdf) that argues for capping the work week at 50 hours maximum. MUJI’s own design general manager Naoko Yano, who designed a Swedish-themed collection for the Japanese lifestyle brand, says she was struck by the efficacy of these Swedish mini breaks. “When I was in Sweden, my first impression was that they were very relaxed at work,” she said describing the stress-free business culture. “But I learned that they just knew how to switch back and forth from relaxation to focus.” Adelsward says that these informal coffee breaks break down barriers in the office. “We meet under informal circumstances, exchange information and comment on what’s happening. The hierarchy breaks down during the fika; we’re all in it together regardless of power and position,” she writes. Those moments of closeness may also let colleagues feel freer to explain or contextualize how they’re acting in the office that day. Like the propinquity effect that Steve Jobs hoped to create by reshuffling departments at Pixar, fika is also thought to encourage creativity, says Adelsward. “We get a chance to blow the dust off our brains, fill them with inspiration from others, and have an opportunity to test our thoughts and ideas.”

Expanding Tertiary Education for Well-Paid Jobs: Competitiveness and Shared Prosperity in Kenya

Blom, A; Raza, R; Kiamba, C; Bayusuf, H; Adil, M. 2016

Expanding tertiary education with quality, relevance, and equity is one of the most decisive challenges facing Kenya’s future, including achievement of the ideals of the 2010 Constitution and, especially, its 2030 vision, which aims at transforming Kenya into a “newly industrializing, middle-income, globally competitive, and prosperous country.” That is because tertiary education can contribute in a critical manner to successfully overcome several of the country’s challenges. This book provides analysis and policy recommendations to the government of Kenya, tertiary education leaders, and the many stakeholders on managing the massive tertiary education expansion facing the country. It discusses the motivation for the analysis and its choice of three critical topics— quality and relevance, governance, and student financing. Then it reviews the findings in each area and concludes with a set of policy recommendations.

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