The Government of Ethiopia has embarked on an ambitious industrialisation strategy based on the creation of special economic zones as centres of export-oriented light manufacturing. The flagship industrial park of this strategy is located in the city of Hawassa, in Ethiopia's Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s (SNNP) Region.
At full capacity, the Hawassa Industrial Park will provide employment to 60,000 workers from the wider region, most of whom will be women aged between 18 and 35. Relatively little is known about the impact of such industrial employment on the economic, physical and social well-being of workers and the largely rural, agricultural communities from which they are recruited.
Methodologically, this study aims to use the expansion of hiring for the park through a centralised, government-led system that integrates recruitment, registration, grading and training of future workers. The research design builds on this centralised system in two different ways:
- Implementing a randomised control trial (RCT) in which eligible job seekers at recruitment fares are randomly allocated job offers; and
- Working with local partners to randomly assign communities to an already-planned expansion of recruitment for the park.
For both parts, the researchers will complement existing administrative data with detailed primary household survey data that they will collect.
For the Ethiopian government, the Hawassa Industrial Park serves as a blueprint for the development of future parks. Accordingly, the researchers hope that their findings can inform future industrial development policy in the country.
Given the tight integration with existing administrative data, the researchers also aim to provide more immediate feedback loops that can inform Ethiopian policymakers at the local and federal level. Beyond Ethiopia, the researchers hope that their evaluation can shed light on the implications of large-scale, location-specific development projects such as growth corridors, growth poles and industrial parks on individuals and local communities.
Fully quantifying the impacts of such programmes is often challenging because generating counter-factual scenarios for such investments is complex, and full estimation of impact also requires an understanding of general equilibrium effects in various markets at the same time. With this project, the researchers aim to make a step towards this understanding and thus inform wider development policy as well.