Mapping the Diversity of Employment Interventions in South Asia

Project Overview

The World Bank commissioned RAND Europe to conduct a stocktaking exercise to map the diversity of employment interventions in South Asia. In addition, RAND conducted a scoping review of international evidence on the impact of interventions.


Governments in developing countries and international organisations are developing employment interventions to ensure that job creation and economic growth keep up with population growth. To scope the diversity of interventions currently carried out in South Asia, RAND Europe conducted a stocktaking exercise. RAND Europe also undertook a scoping review of international evidence on the impact of employment interventions to assess the evidence behind the effectiveness of interventions.


The two parts of the project together aimed to inform the World Bank of the diversity and possible effectiveness of employment interventions, particularly in South Asia.

Through the stocktaking exercise an inventory of employment interventions in South Asia was created, giving a sense of the kinds of interventions implemented and their major target groups.

As evidence of the effectiveness and impact of interventions is very sparse, the scoping review analysed impact studies from any developing country to generate insights into which interventions, or intervention characteristics, seem to relate to success.


For the stocktaking exercise the project team reviewed all the currently active projects of major donors and national governments in the region and snowballed from these initial results. Included were all interventions that wholly or partially aim at increasing employment or improving the productive capacity of the poor.

The team also scoped the economics literature for evidence on the impact on interventions for the second part of the study. Included were all scholarly articles that allow for the extraction of data on the basis of which the team ran a meta-regression to identify interventions or characteristics related to success.


The recent histories of the six selected countries broadly shape the approach taken to employment interventions in these countries. The different approaches are reflected in the types of interventions that are implemented and the groups that are targeted.

While a range of different interventions are currently carried out in all six countries, the team detected some major patterns within countries that seem to highlight important differences between countries in the approach taken to employment.

The meta-regression analysis enabled the team to identify the effectiveness of certain types of interventions taking into account different characteristics and the delivery mode of the intervention.

  • Overall, the team found that around a third of the estimates examined are positive, and at the 5% statistical significance level this figure is highest for the outcome measure ‘quality’ (46.9 per cent), followed by employment activity (32.0 per cent) and income (31.5 per cent).
  • The overall findings suggest that comparatively, public works and general life skills training programmes are not associated with better outcomes. By contrast, business training combined with financing is associated with better employment activity outcomes for the general population and among the youth, but not among women.
  • Finally, while some interventions are positively associated with employment activities, they can be negatively associated with income. This apparent discrepancy may be a timing effect, i.e., it may take longer for income effects to be generated, but further analysis is required to understand this difference.