The good jobs challenge in developing countries

Examining formality and informality with a job ladder approach

The good jobs challenge in developing countries – presentation at the 63rd ISLE Conference

The Indian Society of Labour Economics (ISLE) hosts its 63rd Annual Conference in Rajiv Gandhi University, Itanagar, Arunachal Pradesh 1–3 March 2023.

On day two (2 March) of the conference, a panel discussion will explore the key findings of the forthcoming UNU-WIDER book The job ladder, and provide specific insights from the Indian case study. 

Drawing on research and analysis from The job ladder, the panel introduces the concept of a job ladder for developing countries based on the employment type, formality, and entry requirements to jobs. Further, the panel explores evidence of worker transitions between the tiers of the ladder using panel labour force survey data.

WIDER Board chairperson Prof Martha Chen chairs the panel discussion, while UNU-WIDER director Kunal Sen presents the overall findings of the project, and Rajesh Raj presents the Indian case study from his chapter ‘Moving up or down the job ladder in India: Examining informality-formality transitions’. Discussants Amaresh Dubey and Deepita Chakravarty provide comments.

About The job ladder

Most jobs in low-income countries are in self-employment or unpaid family work in agriculture or services. Labour markets in developing countries are characterized by high levels of informal work. They are multi-layered, and jobs and labour earnings are heterogenous. Workers can either be in wage employment or self-employment, which can exist within both formal and informal employment. Informal employment has its own duality, waged- and self-employed informal workers can face capital or skill requirements which differentiate upper-tier from lower-tier informal employment.

Do some workers move up the tiers over time into better jobs? Who are they? Faced with labour market heterogeneity, what should policymakers focus on to nurture better jobs for more people with growth and structural transformation?