The Search for Good Jobs: Evidence from a Six-year Field Experiment in Uganda

Working Paper
Published on 1 July 2022

A first version of this paper was published on 1 December 2020. A second version on 1 August 2021.


One third of the 420 million young people in Africa are unemployed. Understanding how youth search for jobs and what affects their ability to find good jobs is of paramount importance. We do so using a field experiment tracking young job seekers for six years in Uganda’s main cities. We examine how two standard labor market interventions impact their search for good jobs: vocational training, vocational training combined with matching youth to firms, and matching only. Training is offered in sectors with high quality firms. The matching intervention assigns workers for interviews with such firms. At baseline, unskilled youth are optimistic about their job prospects, especially over the job offer arrival rate from high quality firms. Relative to controls, those offered vocational training become even more optimistic, search more intensively and direct search towards high quality firms. However, youth additionally o¤ered matching become discouraged because call back rates from firm owners are far lower than their prior. As a result, they search less intensively and direct their search towards lower quality firms. These divergent expectations and search behaviors have persistent impacts: vocational trainees without match offers achieve greater labor market success, largely because they end up employed at higher quality firms than youth additionally offered matching. Our analysis highlights the foundational but separate roles of skills and expectations in job search, how interventions cause youth to become optimistic or discouraged, and how this matters for long run sorting in the labor market.


Oriana Bandiera

London School of Economics

Vittorio Bassi

University of Southern California

Robin Burgess

London School of Economics

Imran Rasul

University College London

Munshi Sulaiman

Save the Children

Anna Vitali

University College London