The study aims to assess the effectiveness of the Special Program for the Employment of Students (SPES) in the Philippines.
The 2013 World Bank Development Report on jobs identified youth unemployment as one of the key barriers to growth among developing countries. In the Philippines, young workers (15-24 years old) account for half of the total unemployed persons in the labor force (51.8%), with approximately 17 per cent of youth unemployed. The challenge of finding work is particularly pronounced for those without post-secondary schooling.
Since 1993, the Philippines Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has attempted to increase graduation rates and facilitate employment through SPES. SPES links school youth enrolled or out-of-school youth (ages 15-25), from low-income households, intending to enroll in secondary, tertiary or tech-vocational school, to formal work opportunities lasting 20-52 days at decent wages during their school breaks. The employers (public and private) of the youth are offered a 40 per cent wage subsidy. DOLE collaborates with the provincial and municipal Public Employment Service Offices in implementing the programme. The expected immediate benefits of enrolling in SPES are increased income and additional work experience gained. DOLE anticipates that this income will help students pay their school fees, raise enrollment and graduation rates. Additionally, the work experience obtained may increase 'employability', that is, students may have the skills, attitude, and experience to make them attractive to employers when they leave school.
- What is the impact of SPES on youth academic outcomes, including school enrollment and grade repetition?
- What is the impact of SPES on youth employability, as measured by aspirations, self-empowerment, self-esteem, and subjective labour market perceptions?
- What is the impact of SPES on youth job-search effort, type of position, duration of job search, employment, and income in the medium run (8-12 months)?
With support from 3ie, DOLE partnered with Innovations for Poverty Action to conduct a large-scale oversubscription randomized controlled trial to assess the effectiveness of SPES. The study measured how SPES affects academic outcomes, youth employability and labour market perceptions, and employment and job search efforts.
The study targeted National Capital Region, Region III, Region VI, Region VII, and Region XI in the Philippines. In municipalities where the number of new eligible applicants exceeded the number of available slots for the 2016 summer SPES batch, individuals were randomly chosen to fill the available slots.
Applicants who were randomly chosen to receive SPES formed the treatment group (2,511), and the remainder, who were not invited to receive SPES, formed the control group (1,285).
The causal impact of SPES in the medium-run (8-12 months later) was measured by conducting a phone survey and comparing those who were induced to enroll in SPES because of the random assignment to those who did not enroll.
In the medium-run, while overall SPES did not have an impact on education outcomes, including school enrollment, graduation, and grades; it did increase enrollment for men, who were at higher risk of dropping out of school.
In terms of employability, SPES did not have an impact on life skills and self-esteem. Aside from answering phones, SPES did not have an impact on gained office skills. While it did improve beneficiaries' confidence about their work prospects after graduation, it did not affect their wage perceptions. The most promising impact of the programme was on employment outcomes, specifically that SPES participation increases the likelihood of being currently employed with a private employer, local government unit or NGO compared to the control group (70% increase) . However, even with the positive impact on employment, the cost of SPES to DOLE is high (Php90,000 per job found).
The study authors recommend considering the employment effectiveness in the programme objectives, exploring ways to help work experience provide meaningful skills, improving targeting to improve effectiveness, adding training to help students build life skills, resolving payment delays, and strengthening program monitoring and communication between regional and local PESOs.