Rapid population growth is a key development challenge facing the African continent in the coming decades. Africa’s population, which currently stands at 1.19 billion, is set to grow to 1.63 billion by 2030. This will place huge demands on many sectors of the economy and raises major concerns about how to provide jobs and livelihoods for Africa’s youth. Rapid population growth and urbanization is also placing substantial demands on Africa’s infrastructure with major investments in public infrastructure, including transport, telecommunications and public housing, crucially needed. The labor-intensive nature of such projects provides an opportunity for job creation in the sector, which is one of the main sectors of employment for young men. The central question underlying this project is whether the value of jobs created in large transportation infrastructure investments can be improved by training workers on key non-cognitive skills known to be positively associated with a range of labor market outcomes.
The setting for our project is Dakar, Senegal. The Government of Senegal (GoS) has recognized that improving urban mobility in the Greater Dakar Area (GDA) is of crucial importance for the development of the Senegalese economy, and it has adopted a comprehensive 5-year plan to address some of the challenges that the sector faces. A key flagship projects of this plan, with strong presidential support, is the development of a railway express line (TER) linking the city centre to the south of the city.
The TER began construction in 2017, although construction and hiring of construction workers did not ramp up until beginning of 2018. Currently there are 1061 workers employed in the construction of the TER of which 938 are non-technical workers (in the office or at the construction site), and of these 208 workers are considered unskilled. Additional hiring will occur throughout this year as more workers are required to ensure that the TER is completed by January 2019. Additional workers will especially be required for various complementary construction projects related to building the supporting infrastructure of the TER such as the building of bridges and tunnels.
Our aim to study whether the value of the jobs created by this project can be augmented by a complementary training intervention. Specifically, we will explore the whether a short training programme on non-cognitive skills (conscientiousness) can improve labor market outcomes during the construction of the TER and after the end of the infrastructure construction.
Our project will contribute to three key strands of academic literature. First, we contribute to the broader literature examining the impact of transportation investments on welfare since while job creation is cited as a benefit of these projects, there has been no in-depth examination of this claim. Second, we will contribute to the literature on the impact of worker training considering the dynamic impacts of training beyond the lifecycle of the contract. Third, we will add to the small but growing literature on the role of non-cognitive skills for workers. The results of this impact evaluation will directly inform policy makers in Senegal and in other countries on how to increase the short and medium-term benefits that arise through complementary investments in the construction sector which is relevant to transport and infrastructure projects more generally.