STRENGTHEN Publication Series

Improving Impact Assessment of the Effects of Trade on Employment: Study on Qualitative and Mixed Method Approaches

STRENGTHEN Publication Series Working Paper No. 4

Assessments of the impact of trade on employment tend to be dominated by modelling exercises. Historically, policy deliberations and academic debates about the effects of trade have relied heavily on information from this type of assessments. Over the past number of years, however, increasing attention has focused on the contribution of so-called ‘qualitative’ and mixed method studies in impact assessment. There has been a growing number of such studies along with a growing appreciation of the insights which they may provide. The purpose of this paper is to document a number of contributions which such studies can make in the general context of trade and employment. The paper first addresses conceptual and definitional issues with respect to the ‘qualitative/quantitative’ distinction, ‘participatory’ research approaches, and dimensions of employment and decent work. It then analyses the determinants of methodological choice in impact assessment and presents eight potential contributions of ‘qualitative’ and mixed method approaches with examples from the empirical literature. The paper concludes with a summary of the key areas where ‘qualitative’ and mixed method studies can add value to employment impact assessment and a discussion of the potential for feeding results into the policy process.