The evaluation of labour market treatment effects is one of the most actively researched areas in applied econometrics. Getting good estimates of policy relevant parameters presents some quite technically challenging issues.
But sometimes you really don't need all that. The story below from yesterday's Sunday Business Post gave quite a staggering example of this. A program to get the long term unemployed back to work cost €39m with 46 participants (i.e. almost €900k each) and apparently did not get any of them back to work.
The article adds "Forfas said the state was spending €970 million on a number of jobs and training programmes, but found that there was ‘‘significant information deficit’’, in terms of being able to measure their ‘efficiency and effectiveness’ ".
Indeed. The resources necessary to do a first class evaluation of such programs would be trivial by comparison.