The Role of Skills and Gender Norms in Sector Switches: Experimental Evidence from a Job Training Program in Nigeria


Industrialisation and structural change entails shifting workers from low-skill to high- skill occupations. In emerging economies, multiple constraints may impede sectoral switches among workers, including skill and spatial mismatches, and social norms related to gender in the workplace. This study uses a job training experiment across five cities in Nigeria to estimate the overall effect of training on sectoral switches into the information and communications technology and business process outsourcing sector and to examine the role of various factors that might constrain switching. After 2 years, the treatment group was 26% more likely to work in the information and communication technology (ICT)-enabled service sector, although they were no more likely to be employed than the control group. Sector switches were higher among those with sector-relevant skills, and training magnified the skills premium in switching. Switches were also higher in some cities, despite large improvements in skills in all cities. Women who were implicitly biassed against associating women with professional attributes were two times more likely to switch into ICT than unbiassed women, suggesting that training helped overcome internalised social norms among female applicants to the program. These results suggest that training can be an effective strategy for inducing sector switches and overcoming social norms that hamper female mobility in the labour market and that narrower targeting may make such sector-specific job training programs more effective.

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Last updated on 04/22/2022