Do digital job search tools actually work in developing countries?
For the 2016 World Development Report, “Digital Dividends”, World Bank researchers partnered with Souktel to answer this question–surveying users of Souktel’s web and mobile employment platforms.
In 6 countries across Africa and Asia, Souktel’s digital JobMatch solution has reached more than 75,000 job seekers. The service registers would-be workers via mobile web, SMS, and audio. It then provides information on vacancies, advises on CV preparation, and automatically matches workers with jobs through custom algorithms.
The World Bank-Souktel poll, delivered to 5% of Souktel’s Palestinian JobMatch users, yielded three key findings. First, job-seekers reported higher monthly earnings after finding work through the service: Close to half of surveyed young men earned only $500/month (the average national wage) or less before trying Souktel. After finding jobs through the digital service, that proportion dropped by 30%–suggesting that Souktel’s personalized search tools may help link workers with better-paying positions.
JobMatch was also linked to better labor market outcomes for women. Female job-seekers’ use of the service outstripped national participation rates: Only 19% of women are active in the Palestinian labor market; on Souktel’s JobMatch platform, 35% of users are female. Senior World Bank Economist Indhira Santos noted that this finding “may reflect the constraints women face in traditional ‘offline’ job searches, [ranging from] social norms [to] a lack of contact networks”. Digital job-matching, she observed, “addresses these constraints, at least partially”.
Finally, the research found demand-side benefits to using digital solutions for hiring: Employers reported a reduction in recruiting costs of about 20 percent after using Souktel services. In particular, many noted that digital platforms let them hire from a pre-screened pool of high-quality candidates—reducing the time and cost of recruitment measurably.
Looking ahead, the World Bank team made several recommendations to ensure that Souktel’s solution, and others that follow, are inclusive and effective at scale. First, noted Santos, “the majority of people still do not know about these platforms”. Partnering with governments and vocational training institutions to build awareness about digital job-find services is crucial to expanding access.
Identity verification is also a key building block for growth. Tie-ins to national ID systems or other structures can help reduce fraud and boost buy-in, both among employers and job-seekers. Lastly, real-time analysis of these services’ “big data” can drive reforms at the national policy level: Policy makers can better analyze the behavior of job seekers and employers to reduce skill mismatches. This is the World Bank’s next priority, noted Santos—and Souktel’s.
Adapted from a World Bank post by Indhira Santos, “Narrowing gender gaps through online job matching: How does Souktel do it”?