Gender Differences in the Impact of Vocational Training on Malawi’s Youth

Project Summary

Job training programs have been recognized as effective policy tools to provide youth with marketable labor market skills. In Sub-Saharan Africa, in particular, vocational and entrepreneurial training is even more important given that over 80 percent of the population is self-employed in small business and household enterprises. In 2009, the Government of Malawi decided to pilot a new apprenticeship program aimed at vulnerable youth (mainly orphans or school dropouts) to address employability issues, promote productive self-employment and reduce vulnerability to risky sexual behavior. 

Evidence from our randomized controlled trial of this intervention suggests that the training did not increase labor market outcomes in the short run but did results in skill development, continued investment in human capital, and improved well-being, with more positive effects for men.  We find that women make decisions in a more constrained environment, and their participation is affected by family obligations. Participation is also more expensive for women, resulting in a worse training experience. 

Additionally, we conduct an analysis of the determinants and consequences of dropout by tracking a large fraction of program dropouts.  Having friends or relatives nearby the training center is a strong predictor of whether trainees – both male and female – can complete the training.  Women are more likely to stick with the training program when their opportunities costs decrease (e.g. they lose a job in the pre-study period).  Using non-experimental data on dropout decisions, we provide suggestive evidence that dropouts from the training program are similar to those in the control group at follow-up, suggesting that they simply forgo the benefits of the program by dropping out.

Research Partners:

  • Yoonyoung Cho (The World Bank), Davie Kalomba (Malawi National AIDS Commission), Victor Orozco (The World Bank), Derek Wolfson (Innovations for Poverty Action)

Working Papers

Policy Briefs