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The Global Labor Sector Analytic Initiative (GLaSAI) was initiated by the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance in cooperation with the Department Labor (DOL) and the State Department’s Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (State/DRL), to explore how addressing issues in the labor sector could help achieve strategic goals in international development and foreign assistance. In June 2007, USAID subsequently awarded ARD, Inc., the first of two task orders under the Analytical Services II Indefinite Quantity Contract (IQC). The task was to develop a rigorous and empirically-based approach to the labor sector, one which can both contribute to evolving diplomacy and development objectives and achieve measurable results and impact.

The first step in a series of tools and resources developed under this task order was the development of a conceptual framework for analyzing the labor sector and its contribution to foreign assistance objectives. By viewing the labor sector through a systems optic, this new framework demonstrates how promoting well-functioning labor sectors in developing countries can be an effective means of addressing fundamental democratic development and economic growth objectives. The framework helps to identify areas where host governments, labor unions, private enterprises, civil society organizations, and the donor community share similar challenges and can benefit from interventions in the labor sector.

Since its inception in 2007, the GLaSAI has become a multi-disciplinary effort to develop a dynamic knowledge bank about the impact of the labor sector on political, social and economic development. The Initiative has invited experts in international labor law, labor markets, political economy, and democratic development to address the following questions:

  • • What is a “labor sector,” and why is it important to development?
  • • Who are the key actors in a labor sector, what are the relationships among them, and how do they affect development outcomes?
  • • In what various ways are labor sectors structured around the globe and how do they behave?
  • • What performance standards would one expect to see in a “well-functioning” labor sector?
  • • How does the labor sector’s performance affect political, economic, and social development?
  • • How can various kinds of labor sector programs contribute not only to improved labor sector performance, but also broader diplomacy and development goals?
  • • What results does labor sector programming seek to achieve and what data should we collect to evaluate progress toward such achievement?

The initial conceptual framework defining “the labor sector” was described in a Technical Paper: The Role of the Labor Sector in Promoting U.S. Foreign Assistance Goals. The labor sector framework, along with a draft of the Technical Paper, was presented for discussion at a Labor Forum at USAID in October 2007. Representatives from USG agencies, two of the National Endowment for Democracy’s core grantees (the Solidarity Center and the Center for International Private Enterprise), international organizations that support labor sector programs, non-governmental organizations and research institutions that work in the labor arena, and development consulting firms that implement labor sector programs participated in the forum. Subsequent fora have presented for discussion new and updated technical tools, as well as the results of country assessments.

The stages of work and corresponding conceptual and analytic products of the Initiative are depicted in the figure below.

Figure 1

Country labor assessments have been implemented in eight countries as of June 2010 and provide in-depth information and analysis on gaps in the labor sector and their implications for foreign assistance goals at the country level. Country Labor Sector Assessments have been completed for Bangladesh, Cambodia, Georgia, Honduras, Mexico, Nigeria, South Africa, and Ukraine. Each country assessment has a complete results framework.

A cross-country analysis of the eight country labor assessments presented in “Why Labor Matters: Practical Findings of the Global Labor Sector Analytic Initiative” informs the funding and program decision-making process for policy makers, country team leaders, technical officers, implementing partners and identifies areas for further research into innovative approaches to labor sector interventions.

The Labor Sector Strategic Assessment Guide provides practical tools for determining how a labor sector assessment can inform country-specific development goals, as well as the practicalities of how to conduct an assessment.

The Labor Sector Programming Handbook offers technical tools for developing evidence-based strategies and programs for the labor sector, as well as rigorous monitoring and evaluation.

A Final Report (forthcoming) will provide a cross-country analysis of emerging trends and practices that substantiate the value of using the labor sector framework to develop labor sector programming for maximum impact on international development and foreign assistance goals. A Cross-Country Matrix (forthcoming) will offer users quick access to examples of best practices and emerging trends.

The GLaSAI project is implemented by ARD, Inc.


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