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Role of Soft Skills in Pregnancy and Work

Health & Psychology Uganda

Youth unemployment is an acute problem in low-income countries, including many in sub-Saharan Africa. For youth in particular, labor market and fertility outcomes can be related. While many sub-Saharan national governments have integrated entrepreneurship training into high school curricula, these programs are primarily based on hard skills (i.e. accounting, finance, and strategy) rather than soft skills (i.e. communication, negotiation, and decision-making). This project investigates the role of hard versus soft skills entrepreneurship training on the business success, labor market, psychological well-being, and fertility outcomes of Ugandan youth. Researchers randomly selected 4,400 students from a pool of 7,436 applicants and assigned them to one of five treatment groups, each receiving a different combination of hard and soft skills education. Individual students completed a skills test before and after the training to measure its short-term effectiveness. Researchers track the students via phone and in-person interviews as they continue post-secondary education and enter the labor market to capture long-term impacts.

Four years later, researchers followed-up with students to collect data on hard and soft skills, labor market and business outcomes, and psychological measures of well-being. Early results show that young women who participated in the Educate! program are more likely to graduate from secondary school and enroll in tertiary education, suggesting positive impacts on future earnings. The program generated important social spillovers as well. Youth who participated in the Educate! program reported engaging in less risky behavior, delayed family formation, and selected better partners. Participation in the program also led to a reduction in intimate partner violence and favorably shifted gender norms. Researchers are planning a seven year follow up to answer additional questions.

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