Last Updated:
21 Feb 2020

Missing in Action

Teacher and health worker absence in developing countries Author: Nazmul Chaudhury, Jeffrey Hammer, Michael Kremer, Karthik Muralidharan and F. Halsey Rogers

In this paper, the authors report results from surveys in which enumerators made unannounced visits to primary schools and health clinics in Bangladesh, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Peru and Uganda and recorded whether they found teachers and health workers in the facilities. Averaging across the countries, about 19 percent of teachers and 35 percent of health workers were absent. 

The authors find, among other things, that: 

  • absence rates are generally higher in poorer regions
  • absence is typically fairly widespread, rather than being concentrated on a small number of “ghost” workers
  • higher-ranking and more powerful providers, such as headmasters and doctors, are absent more often than lower-ranking ones
  • men are absent more often than women
  • teachers from the local area are absent less often
  • there is little evidence that pay strongly affects absence



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