Bonn: German Institute of Development and Sustainability (IDOS)
(Policy Brief 27/2023)
In pursuit of employment opportunities and increased productivity, governments and donors have the highest ambitions for technical and vocational education and training (TVET) systems. Most prominently, TVET is expected to facilitate access to employment and a qualified workforce by offering its graduates skills that the labour market demands. Beyond its employment impacts, TVET supporters also anticipate that it will improve societal outcomes such as inclusion, gender equality and social cohesion.
Access to the labour market plays an essential role in allowing displaced populations to sustain their livelihoods and to foster socio-economic integration. Long-term displacement situations and a decline in resettlement opportunities have spurred the quest for local integration in countries of first asylum. It is in this context that TVET has gained additional salience in the past decade.
Does TVET live up to these promises? Overall, systematic empirical evidence on the impact of TVET is limited and often inconsistent. In terms of employment and income, evidence suggests that there is a small positive effect, but time plays an important factor. Often, impacts are only seen in the medium- to long-term, and in general, programmes tend to work better for the long-term unemployed. Evidence of societal effects is even more limited; there is a large gap of knowledge on the potential social cohesion impacts of TVET. Given the amount of funding and the high expectations found in the policy discourse, it is essential to better understand if and how TVET measures contribute to achieving their self-declared goals.
In this brief, we present the results of an accompanying research study of an inclusive TVET programme implemented by the German development cooperation organisation Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) in Ethiopia. In this programme, host and refugee participants are jointly trained, with the explicit goals of fostering social cohesion and improving employment opportunities.
The results indicate that while the social cohesion effect seems remarkable on several dimensions, the income and employment effect is at best weak and materialises only for specific groups of individuals. Qualitative and quantitative evidence supports the validity of the approach to achieve social cohesion. More than design or implementation problems, the lack of stronger employment effects appears to be driven by structural context conditions like limited labour market absorption capacity, legal work permission constraints, gender barriers and similar hindering factors.
We derive the following main recommendations from the analysis:
TVET measures need a careful context analysis (including labour market capacities, legal work barriers) to ensure that the necessary conditions for TVET to succeed are in place. This is particularly relevant in terms of employment effects, which appear to be elusive.