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Evaluation of the DOLE Special Program for the Employment of Students (SPES)
Last registered on April 29, 2018


Trial Information
General Information
Evaluation of the DOLE Special Program for the Employment of Students (SPES)
Initial registration date
November 16, 2015
Last updated
April 29, 2018 10:59 PM EDT
Primary Investigator
University of Vermont
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
Innovations for Poverty Action
PI Affiliation
University of the Philippines
PI Affiliation
University of Texas at Austin
Additional Trial Information
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
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.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Beam, Emily et al. 2018. "Evaluation of the DOLE Special Program for the Employment of Students (SPES)." AEA RCT Registry. April 29. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.949-2.0.
Former Citation
Beam, Emily et al. 2018. "Evaluation of the DOLE Special Program for the Employment of Students (SPES)." AEA RCT Registry. April 29. http://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/949/history/28932.
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Experimental Details
The Department of Labor and Empoyment implemented the Special Program for Employment of Students (SPES) by enacting Republic Act 7323 (Special Program for the Employment of Students), in 1992, to help poor but deserving students pursue their education by encouraging employment during summer and/or Christmas vacations, through incentives granted to employers. The objectives of SPES are to: augment income to cover the costs of education through an employment bridging program; keep youth in school and finish education where employers pay 60% of the beneficiaries and government (through DOLE) pays 40%; and increase school retention and graduation rate of the target beneficiaries. For 20-52 working days, students and out-of-school youth (OSY) who are 15-25 years old may apply for SPES, provided they are poor but deserving students who want to pursue education. To participate in the program, family income (including the applicant’s) may not exceed the regional poverty threshold for a family of six (6); the applicant must have obtained an average passing grade during the previous term or school year; the applicant must show good moral character as certified by the Barangay Chairman in their area; and the applicant must intend to enroll in any secondary, tertiary or tech-vocational educational institution.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
The primary focus of the evaluation will be to assess the effects of SPES on students’ school participation and labor market outcomes. The primary outcomes of interest include the following:
• Education: share of applicants enrolled in school, share graduated (from high school and from college), share dropout, grade repetition, time to degree, and grades (general weighted average).
• Employment: share employed, share employed in formal sector, share employed in “vulnerable employment” (self-employed or unpaid family businesses), share currently looking for work, and duration of job search.
The secondary outcomes of interest include the impact of SPES on students’ incomes and expenditures, on students’ earnings in the short and medium run, and on education spending. We will also measure the impact of SPES on employability, as assessed by subjective measures of individuals’ self-empowerment, self-esteem, aspirations, and labor market perceptions:
• Income: SPES earnings, self-reported individual income.
• Consumption: Education spending, non-education spending.
• Employability: Index measures of self-empowerment and self-esteem, aspirations, labor market perceptions.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
We will conduct an oversubscription randomized field experiment to identify the causal impact of the SPES program. Eligible applicants will be randomized into a treatment group invited to enroll in the program and a control group. This initial lottery will exempt a small number of applicants who have previously participated in SPES. For all applicants, including those exempt from the initial lottery, we will work with the implementing partners to randomly assign accepted applicants to available jobs, subject to applicants meeting any job requirements set for each position. Those in the control group will be prohibited from joining SPES for one year. We will then randomly select a subset of control and treatment group students to be a part of our study, aiming for equal division on average between treatment and control groups to maximize power. Based on power calculations, 4,000 will be assigned to control and 4,000 to treatment. The exact treatment-to-control ratios and the ratio of sample size to number of applicants will vary at the municipal level because the oversubscription rate will also vary. Screening more applicants than we include in the study will enable us to be flexible to variations in the oversubscription rate and to maximize cost efficiency by having equally sized treatment and control groups.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Public lottery
Randomization Unit
Was the treatment clustered?
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
8,000 applicants (no clusters)
Sample size: planned number of observations
8,000 applicants
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
4,000 applicants control, 4,000 applicants treatment
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
We propose a set of power calculations based on rough assumptions about the school enrollment rate and distribution of students across grade levels. We assume that the enrollment rate among eligible SPES applicants in the academic year following their program participation is 85%. With a conservative response rate of 70%, a total sample size of 8,000 applicants, with 4,000 assigned to the treatment group and 4,000 to the control group will thus enable us to detect an average 2.9 percentage-point increase in enrollment with 90% power. For subgroups of interest, such as first- and second-year college students, we will have sufficient power to detect an average 5.0 percentage-point increase in enrollment with 90% power, assuming the subgroup composes one-third of our total sample.
IRB Name
Human Subjects Committee for Innovations for Poverty Action
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Post Trial Information
Study Withdrawal
Is the intervention completed?
Is data collection complete?
Data Collection Completion Date
Final Sample Size: Number of Clusters (Unit of Randomization)
Was attrition correlated with treatment status?
Final Sample Size: Total Number of Observations
Final Sample Size (or Number of Clusters) by Treatment Arms
Data Publication
Data Publication
Is public data available?
Program Files
Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials
Relevant Paper(s)