What are ALMPs? Can they help me find a job?
It was a chilly winter day in January. My colleagues and I were at the Ministry of Vocational Training and Employment in Tunisia sitting at a large oval table in a conference room. The room was cold with no heating, but the expectations about how the meeting would transpire were generating plenty of heat. On one side of the table sat staff from the Ministry's Direction of Employment Programs. On the other side were representatives from NGOs, employers, and enterprises that provide training and employment services to job seekers in Tunisia.
After a protocol greeting, we explained to participants that we wanted to hear their views on the recent reform of ALMPs in Tunisia. The reform was implemented last October with the support of a World Bank Development Policy Lending program. Participants were silent for a while, until one of them - with a very frank look on his face - asked: "Excuse me, Monsieur Diego, but what do you mean by ALMPs?"
I have to admit that I get this question quite often. "ALMPs are Active Labor Market Programs," I explained, "and they are designed to help the unemployed find jobs by giving them the opportunity of participating actively in employment services; such as training, counseling, or intermediation. In fact, Tunisia spends about 0.5 percent of its Gross Domestic Product every year on these kinds of programs."
I also explained that for a long time, ANETI (the Tunisian National Employment Agency), has been practically the sole provider of ALMPs in Tunisia. However, a recent study showed that their programs have not been effective in helping the unemployed find jobs. For this reason, one of the many goals of the reform was to allow the private sector to partner with ANETI to deliver more effective ALMPs.
"We can help ANETI train job-seekers,” observed one of the participants, who represented a private provider of training. “But the problem is that there are no jobs." The Director General (DG) of the government’s employment programs immediately interrupted him. "That statement is not entirely correct!” He insisted, “our administrative data reveals that there are about 150,000 vacancies every year in Tunisia - but less than 20 percent of them get filled." The DG continued, "your role under the new reform is to identify where those vacancies are and provide individuals with the skills and competencies required by those jobs. The government will pay you for your services not only based on your capacity to train individuals but also on your capacity to place them into formal jobs. ANETI is not being able to do this alone.”
At the end of the meeting, one of the participants approached me. "Monsieur Diego,” he said, “if we can help 10,000 unemployed youth in Tunisia acquire the necessary skills for the jobs that are available, and information on how to find them, the reform would be a success." Then, he paused and said, "but for this we will have to build very close partnerships with employers." I nodded. "Oui Monsieur,” I replied, “with that brief statement you have essentially summarized the main message of a 100-page report we are finalizing on ALPMs in the Middle East and North Africa region."
A forthcoming World Bank report entitled “Building Effective Employment Services for Unemployed Youth in the Middle East and North Africa”, concludes that in order to help unemployed workers in the region obtain the skills required for the available jobs, there is an urgent need to reform existing employment programs. Many of the current programs are delivered solely by public providers. This needs to change by promoting strong partnerships between public agencies, public providers, and employers. Public-private partnerships for delivery of employment services will, thus, be pivotal in MENA to foster employment programs that are effective and respond to the needs of the labor market. These partnerships should be developed with strong governance mechanisms with results-based contracts, whereby providers of employment services would be assessed and remunerated based on their success in helping beneficiaries access either internships or jobs in the private sector.