For the past 22 years, the Philippine government has attempted to increase graduation rates and facilitate employment through the Special Program for the Employment of Students (SPES), which links low-income youth ages 15-25 to formal work opportunities lasting 20-52 days at decent wages during their school breaks by offering employers a 40% wage subsidy and facilitating the matching process. This program currently serves more than 150,000 students annually, but to date its effectiveness is unknown.
The impact evaluation of the DOLE Special Program for the Employment of Students (SPES), is a partnership between DOLE, 3ie and Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA), aiming to design, implement and evaluate the impact of SPES on academic outcomes, youth employability and labor market perceptions. The evaluation is conducted Leigh Linden (University of Texas at Austin), Emily Beam (National University of Singapore), Stella Quimbo (University of the Philippines) and Nathanael Goldberg (Innovations for Poverty Action), with the coordination of IPA Philippines.
We propose a large-scale randomized field experiment to assess the effectiveness of SPES. Specifically, we suggest using an oversubscription randomized control trial. With our help, SPES will conduct a large outreach effort to recruit more applicants than available positions in the program. From the pool of applicants, we will then randomly choose individuals to fill the available slots. We will compare the future behavior of applicants in the medium-term (12 months later) by comparing those chosen for the program to those who were not.
The primary focus of the evaluation will be to assess the effects of SPES on students’ school participation and labor market outcomes. School participation will include whether students are enrolled and obtain passing grades. Labor market outcomes will include income, work hours, and job-search effort and duration.
Finally to provide guidance on the best strategies for matching applicants with positions, we plan to assess how the type of work experience students obtain affects their later enrollment decisions and employment outcomes. Work experience specific to students’ experience and interests may lead to greater program take-up and retention, larger impacts on school enrollment, and a faster transition to employment upon exiting school. Alternatively, the combination of earnings with general work experience, regardless of the nature of the work, may be the main determinant of students’ outcomes. This may be particularly true if exposing students to different work areas provides them with information and exposure to new career opportunities.