Monitoring and evaluating employment policies

Monitoring and evaluation (M&E) are critical components of the employment policy cycle because they underpin efforts to ensure that a policy is on track to meet its goals and objectives, along with understanding which measures are the most effective. In periods of uncertainty and fast-evolving labour markets, as witnessed during the COVID-19 pandemic, M&E provides evidence that can be used to make necessary adjustments to employment policies.

For these reasons, M&E should be an integral part of employment policies and should be planned already at the design stage of the policy and an M&E framework should be included in any employment policy process.
  • Monitoring answers the question: Are we on the right track?
  • Evaluations answer the question: What have we achieved?

Monitoring of employment policies

Monitoring provides information on a continuous basis to inform policymakers and programme managers about planned and actual developments. Monitoring involves collecting and analysing data to verify that resources are used as intended, that activities are implemented according to the employment policy and its action plan, that the expected products and services are delivered and that intended beneficiaries are reached.

Effective monitoring helps to detect problems, take corrective actions and lay the groundwork to produce evidence about what works in employment policy. Monitoring systems come with a cost and should be budgeted for in the policy’s implementation plan.

A good evaluation is hard to conduct without good monitoring information from actual implementation. If no reliable information about the progress and quality of implementation is available, then any evaluation undertaken will run the risk of misinterpreting the reasons for the success or failure of the project.

The key steps for building a monitoring system that should be followed in an employment policy process include:

  • Step 1. As part of the policy formulation process, draw a theory of change and results chain based on the goals, objectives, strategies, outputs and actions.
  • Step 2. Choose key performance indicators
  • Step 3. Select data collection tools
  • Step 4. Deploy the system to aggregate, analyse and report on results for discussion with key actors (ministries in charge of employment, finance, etc., national statistical office, social partners, and knowledge and development partners).

If monitoring identifies major deviations in implementation viz-à-vis the policy’s goals and objectives, actions should be taken. A review should be organized, regularly or as requested among the inter-institutional coordination structure, social partners, other stakeholders and implementing institutions, and beneficiaries to discuss what needs to be done. 

Employment impact assessment methods to support evaluation of employment policies

Evaluating employment policies is difficult because of the complex nature of employment policies, which comprise a multitude of different programmes and interventions both at the macro and micro level and intervene in different sectors of the economy. To effectively assess employment policies, different methods and approaches may be needed before, during and after the implemented policy. The ILO’s approach is called Employment Impact Assessment (EmpIA) and involves both ex-ante and ex-post tools:
  • Ex-ante approaches include input-output tables, social accounting matrixes, general equilibrium models and skills anticipation
  • Monitoring techniques (during implementation) include intermediate reviews (e.g., mid-term) and performance monitoring
  • Ex-post approaches include cost-benefit analysis, systematic reviews, performance evaluation, quasi experiments, experiments and policy reviews
However, there is no one-size-fits-all template for evaluating employment policies. Ultimately, the choice of the evaluation should depend on the type of information we want to collect (what do we want to assess: programme progress/ performance/ attributable impacts?), as well as on available resources, such as skills, resources and time.

Source: Guide: Reference guide for Employment Impact Assessment

Employment policy reviews

Due to the multifaceted nature of employment policies, performance evaluations, including peer reviews, are a key tool for assessing a policy. Key ILO tools and publications that will help in the review process include:

Institutional functions of a M&E framework

An employment policy monitoring and evaluation system should deliver timely, reliable data and analysis to feed into the policy process. To accomplish this, it must include a range of functions that are specifically institutional in nature, which includes:
  • Coordination among data producers to establish a common set of indicators and eliminate gaps and redundancies
  • The development of common standards, procedures, and platforms
  • A strengthening of monitoring capacity across the ministry in charge of employment, but also across other implementing agencies
  • The organization of information flows among stakeholders inside and outside government
  • The compilation and analysis of data from various sources
  • Employment programme evaluation (including data analysis)
  • The generation of annual progress reports and other outputs
  • The provision of advice to policymakers
  • The dissemination of outputs across government agencies, social partners and to the public
  • The organization of the participation of social partners and other stakeholders
Social partners can play various roles in monitoring systems both as producers and users of monitoring information. The participation of social partners in a monitoring system needs to be actively supported.