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The Guyana Labor Force Survey: A Happy Reality!

Featured Image: On the left, Diether  doing fieldwork in the streets of Georgetown, Guyana, July 2017, photo by Diether W. Beuermann

The Guyana Labor Force Survey: A Happy Reality!

By Diether Beuermann, Sharon Miller, and Clevern Liddell

Imagine a Government that would like to prioritize scarce public funds for social assistance in areas with higher poverty incidence, but without any representative information on household income levels. Or, imagine an NGO that would like to develop apprenticeship programs in areas with high youth unemployment, but without any information on unemployment. Under such circumstances, prioritization of scarce resources will not be driven by objective evidence but possibly by biased perceptions, cultural practices and beliefs. In other words, no possibilities of “evidence-based policymaking” would exist and a substantial risk of misallocation of limited resources would be present. This was the challenge of Guyana before July 2017 as there was no periodic collection of representative data measuring income and labor market dynamics such as unemployment, job creation, and job destruction.

One of the main tools used to track such indicators are the Continuous Labor Force Surveys. These consist of nationally representative samples interviewed every quarter using a standard questionnaire. One well known example is the US Current Population Survey which is the source of US employment statistics and, for the sake of transparency, all microdata and survey documentation is publicly available here. Although other Caribbean member countries like The Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago produce these surveys; Guyana was lagging. This reality hindered the possibility of having up-to-date, objective information to inform evidence-based policy decisions.

Against this background, the Government of Guyana requested technical and financial support from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to:

a) Design a Continuous Labor Force Survey following the best international practices;

b) Execute the survey in the field for the first two quarters; and

c) Create the local capacity within the Guyana Bureau of Statistics so that the survey can be executed on a continuous basis beyond IDB support. In response to such a relevant request, the IDB approved a Non-Reimbursable Technical Cooperation project. Starting in May 2016, a multidisciplinary team involving specialists from the IDB, The Guyana Bureau of Statistics, The International Labor Organization and the firm Sistemas Integrales was formed to accomplish such tasks.

The design considered the development of a questionnaire consistent with the latest International Labor Standards. In addition, it considered an individual level rotating panel design to increase statistical precision when measuring changes in indicators quarter over quarter. Finally, the design included state of the art data quality assurance processes such as: utilization of electronic questionnaires in tablets with automatic consistency validations, centralized real time tracking of key data quality indicators at the interviewer level, real time GPS tracking to ensure that the targeted household was being interviewed, randomized audio auditing of key questions during the interview process, and random household re-visits to check accuracy of the information collected. These features mean that the Guyana Labor Force Survey design is not only one of the most robust in The Caribbean but also within a global perspective.

Interviewers and supervisors in the first session of the training program photo, Georgetown, Guyana, May 2017, photo by Diether W. BeuermannMay 2017 –  from left to right: Mr. Lennox Benjamin, Chief Statistician, Guyana Bureau of Statistics; Ms. Alejandra Barrios Rivera, ICT Specialist, Sistemas Integrales Ltd.; Mr. Juan Munoz, Director, Sistemas Integrales Ltd.; Dr. Diether Beuermann, Senior Economist, Inter-American Development Bank, Mrs. Jacqueline Tull, Senior Statistician, Guyana Bureau of Statistics ; Mr. Ian Manifold, previous Director of Surveys Division, now Deputy Chief Statistician, Guyana Bureau of Statistics; Mrs. Jenniffer Bentick, Project Coordinator, Inter-American Development Bank – 

Moreover, the project included a strong capacity building component where personnel from the Guyana Bureau of Statistics have been trained in mastering all these features. Candidates for interviewers and field supervisors were recruited and given an intense training followed by a 4-week period in which a dry-run of all survey mechanisms was executed in enumeration areas outside of the selected sample. Candidates were assessed in their performance over all this period and the best ones were selected and hired. The hired personnel constitute now a permanent core team within the Guyana Bureau of Statistics in charge of continuously executing the survey nationwide.

Classroom training, Georgetown, Guyana, May 2017, photo by Diether W. Beuermann

The survey has been successfully executed for three consecutive quarters and the fourth quarter is currently in execution. The launching event of the survey took place on March 15, 2018. During the event, the Permanent Secretary of the Guyana Ministry of Finance, Dr. Hector Butts, assured that “the Guyana Labor Force Survey is critical since its data will aid in objective decision-making”. Furthermore, Dr. Butts believes that that the continuous survey will garner conversations on the effectiveness of policies towards labor, and the labor force. Similarly, the IDB Country Representative in Guyana, Ms. Sophie Makonnen, highlighted that “more than ever Guyana needs to match the supply of its labor with the current and future demand for labor, in ensuring they have the skills for the jobs out there”.

The data quality is remarkable with overall non-response rates below 10 percent. Importantly, the response rates for income related questions is above 85 percent; the highest reporting rate on this key variable across The Caribbean and amongst the highest globally. In its commitment with transparency, the Guyana Bureau of Statistics is making all data and relevant documentation of the survey publicly available here. We envision that this new data will stimulate research and policy relevant analyses to feed well informed decisions in Guyana. Indeed, we invite you to read the publication of all results of this continuous survey at the new series of The Guyana Labor Market Quarterly Bulletins!!

 

 About the authors

 

Dr. Diether W. Beuermann is a Senior Economist at the Inter-American Development Bank. He has led research and data collection projects in various countries including Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, Paraguay, Peru, Russia, Suriname, The Bahamas, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Trinidad and Tobago, and the US. His research has covered the effects of different Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) on agricultural profitability, child labor, academic performance, pre-natal care and neo-natal health. Furthermore, he has done research on the effectiveness of decentralization reforms and participatory budgeting, the effectiveness of educational quality and school administrative regimes on academic performance and long-term labor market and health outcomes, the role of remittances as a social insurance mechanism, the effects of early-life weather shocks on human capital accumulation over the life cycle, and the effects of public health insurance on health outcomes and labor supply. He has published in several international peer reviewed journals including theAmerican Economic Journal: Applied Economics, Journal of Development Studies, Review of Development Economics, Journal of Developing Areas, Estudios de Economia, The ICFAI Journal of Financial Risk Management and Journal of Centrum Cathedra. Dr. Beuermann holds a B.A in Business Management and a B.Sc. in Economics from the Universidad de Lima (Peru), an M.Sc. in Finance from the University of Durham (UK), and an M.A and Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Maryland-College Park (USA).

 

Clevern Liddell works in the Operations Department at the IDB Country Office in Guyana. As an Operations Senior Analyst, she provides key inputs for the Bank’s portfolio analysis and works with various development projects across multiple sectors including transport, trade and public-sector management. Passionate about sustainable development, everyday she gets to share her expertise in project management and procurement to help deliver project results to Guyanese beneficiaries which improves lives. Clevern comes from a consulting background and is an advocate for evidenced-based decision making, strategic planning, innovative ideas, and results. Clevern has a BSc in Economics , holds a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from the University of Bradford and a Diploma in Procurement and Supply from the Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply (CIPS). While cooking has been her lifelong hobby she continues to enjoy a good discussion on issues as well as solutions to development challenges.

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