Publications on Capabilities approach
What Do Poor Women Want? Public Employment or Cash Transfers?
Working Paper No. 705 | February 2012
Lessons from Argentina
The literature on public employment policies such as the job guarantee (JG) and the employer of last resort (ELR) often emphasizes their macroeconomic stabilization effects. But carefully designed and implemented policies like these can also have profound social transformative effects. In particular, they can help address enduring economic problems such as poverty and gender disparity. To examine how, this paper will look at the reform of Argentina’s Plan Jefes into Plan Familias. Plan Jefes was the hallmark stabilization policy of the Argentine government after the 2001 crisis. It guaranteed a public sector job in a community project to unemployed male and female heads of households. The vast majority of beneficiaries, however, turned out to be poor women. For a number of reasons that are explored below, the program was later reformed into a cash transfer policy, known as Plan Familias, that still exists today. The paper examines this reform in order to evaluate the relative impact of such policies on some of the most vulnerable members of society; namely, poor women. An examination of the Argentine experience based on survey evidence and fieldwork reveals that poor women overwhelmingly want paid work opportunities, and that a policy such as the JG or the ELR cannot only guarantees full employment and macroeconomic stabilization, but it can also serve as an institutional vehicle that begins to transform some of the structures and norms that produce and reproduce gender disparities. These transformative features of public employment policies are elucidated by turning to the capabilities approach developed by Amartya Sen and elaborated by Martha Nussbaum—an approach commonly invoked in the feminist literature. This paper examines how the access to paid employment can enhance what Sen defines as an individual’s “substantive freedom.” Any policy that fosters genuine freedom begins with an understanding of what the targeted population (in this case, poor women) wants. It then devises a strategy that guarantees that such opportunities exist and removes the obstacles to accessing these opportunities.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
How Rich Countries Became Rich and Why Poor Countries Remain Poor
Working Paper No. 644 | December 2010
It’s the Economic Structure . . . Duh!
Becoming a rich country requires the ability to produce and export commodities that embody certain characteristics. We classify 779 exported commodities according to two dimensions: (1) sophistication (measured by the income content of the products exported); and (2) connectivity to other products (a well-connected export basket is one that allows an easy jump to other potential exports). We identify 352 “good” products and 427 “bad” products. Based on this, we categorize 154 countries into four groups according to these two characteristics. There are 34 countries whose export basket contains a significant share of good products. We find 28 countries in a “middle product” trap. These are countries whose export baskets contain a significant share of products that are in the middle of the sophistication and connectivity spectra. We also find 17 countries that are in a “middle-low” product trap, and 75 countries that are in a difficult and precarious “low product” trap. These are countries whose export baskets contain a significant share of unsophisticated products that are poorly connected to other products. To escape this situation, these countries need to implement policies that would help them accumulate the capabilities needed to manufacture and export more sophisticated and better connected products.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Exports, Capabilities, and Industrial Policy in India
Working Paper No. 638 | November 2010
An extensive literature argues that India’s manufacturing sector has underperformed, and that the country has failed to industrialize; in particular, it has failed to take advantage of its labor-abundant comparative advantage. India’s manufacturing sector is smaller as a share of GDP than that of East Asian countries, even after controlling for GDP per capita. Hence, its contribution to overall GDP growth is modest. Without greater participation of the secondary sector, the argument goes, the country will not be able to develop and become a modern economy. Standard arguments blame the “license-permit raj,” the small-scale industrial policy, and the supposedly stringent laws. All these were part of the industrial policy regime instituted after independence, which favored the heavy-machinery subsector. We show that this policy bias negatively affected the development of India’s labor-intensive sector, as the country should export with comparative advantage a larger number of these products, given its income per capita. However, India’s manufacturing sector is relatively well diversified and sophisticated, given also the country’s income per capita. In particular, India’s inroads into machinery, metals, chemicals, and other capital- and skilled labor–intensive products has allowed the country to accumulate a large number of capabilities. This positions India well to expand its exports of other sophisticated products.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Product Complexity and Economic Development
Working Paper No. 616 | September 2010We rank 5,107 products and 124 countries according to the Hidalgo and Hausmann (2009) measures of complexity. We find that: (1) the most complex products are in machinery, chemicals, and metals, while the least complex products are raw materials and commodities, wood, textiles, and agricultural products; (2) the most complex economies in the world are Japan, Germany, and Sweden, and the least complex, Cambodia, Papua New Guinea, and Nigeria; (3) the major exporters of the more complex products are the high-income countries, while the major exporters of the less complex products are the low-income countries; and (4) export shares of the more complex products increase with income, while export shares of the less complex products decrease with income. Finally, we relate the measure of product complexity with the concept of Complex Products and Systems, and find a high degree of conformity between them.
Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Arnelyn Abdon Marife Bacate Jesus Felipe Utsav Kumar
As You Sow So Shall You Reap
Working Paper No. 613 | August 2010
From Capabilities to OpportunitiesWe develop an Index of Opportunities for 130 countries based on their capabilities to undergo structural transformation. The Index of Opportunities has four dimensions, all of them characteristic of a country’s export basket: (1) sophistication; (2) diversification; (3) standardness; and (4) possibilities for exporting with comparative advantage over other products. The rationale underlying the index is that, in the long run, a country’s income is determined by the variety and sophistication of the products it makes and exports, which reflect its accumulated capabilities. We find that countries like China, India, Poland, Thailand, Mexico, and Brazil have accumulated a significant number of capabilities that will allow them to do well in the long run. These countries have diversified and increased the level of sophistication of their export structures. At the other extreme, countries like Papua New Guinea, Malawi, Benin, Mauritania, and Haiti score very poorly in the Index of Opportunities because their export structures are neither diversified nor sophisticated, and they have accumulated very few and unsophisticated capabilities. These countries are in urgent need of implementing policies that lead to the accumulation of capabilities.
Why China Has Succeeded—and Why It Will Continue to Do So
Working Paper No. 611 | August 2010The key factor underlying China’s fast development during the last 50 years is its ability to master and accumulate new and more complex capabilities, reflected in the increase in diversification and sophistication of its export basket. This accumulation was policy induced and not the result of the market, and began before 1979. Despite its many policy mistakes, if China had not proceeded this way, in all likelihood it would be a much poorer country today. During the last 50 years, China has acquired revealed comparative advantage in the export of both labor-intensive products (following its factor abundance) and sophisticated products, although the latter does not indicate that there was leapfrogging. Analysis of China’s current export opportunity set indicates that it is exceptionally well positioned (especially taking into account its income per capita) to continue learning and gaining revealed comparative advantage in the export of more sophisticated products. Given adequate policies, carefully thought-out and implemented reforms, and skillful management of constraints and risks, China has the potential to continue thriving. This does not mean, however, that high growth will continue indefinitely.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Jesus Felipe Utsav Kumar Norio Usui Arnelyn Abdon
Using Capabilities to Project Growth, 2010–30
Working Paper No. 609 | August 2010We forecast average annual GDP growth for 147 countries for 2010–30. We use a cross-country regression model where the long-run fundamentals are determined by countries’ accumulated capabilities and the capacity to undergo structural transformation.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):