South Sudan

Jobs Working Paper Issue No. 50: Job Outcomes in the Towns of South Sudan: Jobs, Recovery, and Peacebuilding in Urban South Sudan – Technical Report I

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This report is one of a set of studies on urban jobs outcomes. This study is one of a set of four reports covering different aspects of jobs in urban South Sudan. Readers may refer to the respective companion reports on the macroeconomic environment for jobs (World Bank, 2020b), markets and market-linked agriculture (World Bank, 2020c), and jobs in businesses and NGOs (World Bank, 2020d). A synthesis report summarizes and contrasts findings from all four studies (World Bank, 2020e).

After years of conflict, the realities of the job outcomes in the towns of South Sudan are stark: poverty is very high, there are few productive jobs, and conflict has touched nearly all livelihoods

Few job activities in the towns of South Sudan are productive enough to provide a livelihood above the poverty level. In urban South Sudan, more than 70 percent of non-displaced residents, and 90 percent of IDPs in Protection of Civilians (PoCs) sites live in poverty. In none of the towns included in our analysis is the poverty rate below 60 percent. High poverty goes hand in hand with the low productivity of the job activities available to most South Sudanese: median income for young workers in household activities in 2019 was equivalent to about SSP 600-1,000 or US$2-3 per day, and businesses report a median income of roughly US$2 per worker and day. Low productivity is also reflected in the inability of households to diversify activities and the difficulties youth face in finding work beyond being household helpers.

Half of all urban households have lost a job activity through conflict, and the majority of the displaced are no longer active in the labor market. Even among households that have not been displaced, nearly half have lost an important job activity since 2013, often the household’s primary activity. Wages have fallen for half of all urban workers, as has time at work, and more workers now report that they would like to work longer hours than before the conflict. The displaced have suffered much, and lost funds, land, and tools. Fewer than half of the internally displaced and fewer than one in five refugees are employed, and even those who are work less and report lower wages than urban residents.

Reintegrating South Sudan’s 1.7m internally displaced and 2.2m refugees into the labor market will pose a major challenge. While most refugees hope for a return to South Sudan, two in three of the internally displaced hope to remain in their current host communities. At the same time, four in five of the displaced would like to resume the activities they led in their home communities. Absorbing these workers into the labor force may pose obstacles to home communities. For instance, a plurality of residents of the Juba PoC site used to originally do waged work; despite the fact that waged jobs are a relatively large source of employment in Juba, it is doubtful whether there is the potential to absorb a large number of additional workers.

Most urban households diversify their job activities little, and rely on household work in agriculture and commerce or services, or they depend on a household member’s work for NGOs or as a public servant

For most urban workers, a job is own-account or household work in services or agriculture. Most workers are self-employed (46%) or support household-run business activities (27%). Paid labor (whether salaried work or daily labor) accounts for one in four jobs, with fewer youth and women in paid employment. Agriculture is a major source of employment in towns (37% of all jobs), second only to services, which employ about every other worker, mostly in commerce and personal services. While comparisons over time are difficult, it is evident that the role of agriculture as an employer has increased during the conflict for urban residents – but not for IDPs, few of whom have access to land.

In a deeply disrupted economic environment, households make do by pooling family labor in subsistence activities or depend on a single wage earner. In an environment where few workers have savings, and where insecurity and depressed demand makes even small investments risky, households diversify their job activities little. Households – four adults and four children at the median – tend to work together on a sole job activity (often subsistence agriculture) or a set of activities (usually in agriculture and commerce). Others rely on a single household member (commonly in wage work), and share the income generated to support inactive household members. Among the displaced, far fewer work, and the many inactive adults rely on humanitarian aid rather than family for support.

Half of all urban households rely on agriculture for most of their income, and more base their livelihood on work for NGOs and the public sector than are employed in businesses. While about one in three workers are active in agriculture, half of all urban households rely on agriculture as their primary source of income. Work for NGOs and on the public payroll taken together are the primary source of income for about one in six households (16%), followed by commerce (13%) and personal services (10%). Far more households rely on the public sector and NGOs than count on waged work for for-profit companies, which is the primary activity of 5% of households).

Towns differ in which activities matter for jobs, in particular in their reliance on agriculture as opposed to commerce and services. Differences in job activities between towns speak to local constraints, but also to comparative advantage and the potential – if stability increases – for trade between towns. Waged employment contributes roughly equally across towns. However, reliance on agriculture varies strongly. Many workers and households are active in agriculture in towns including Yambio and Rumbek, while far fewer are in Aweil, Juba, or Wau. In towns where agriculture plays a lesser role, casual business activities and services provide more jobs.

Many young workers say they are ready to build from the less than attractive job activities available, and point to lack of funding, insecurity, and low demand as the main obstacles to doing better

Young workers show a realistic and reasonably open-minded attitude toward the modest job activities available to them. In the short term, most jobs will be in activities that are do not generate much income, and that may not be satisfying. Whether young South Sudanese in particular are willing to build from such limited opportunities will be important for economic recovery as well as for political stability. In survey answers, young workers in South Sudan have a realistic sense of the low incomes (around US$2-3 per day) that can be had from common job activities. Most view casual activities such as work in agriculture, in the market, in construction, or in casual services at least mildly favorably. While many young workers still hope to someday work for the government, fewer than one in ten expect such a job within a year, a more modest expectation than when youth were surveyed in 2014.

About half of all young urban workers view agriculture as a good job, and a majority of those currently in agriculture would rather do better in their activity than shift to another job. Among young urban workers, about half see agriculture as at least as good a job as others. Three in five who are currently active in agriculture would like to improve their activity, rather than switching to a new one or resume education – a higher share than among those in any other type of activity. While this is far from universal interest in agriculture, it gives some reason to hope that even in towns, a significant number of young urban South Sudanese will be interested in working in the sector, and may benefit from its potential for recovery.