Youth Employment and Decent Work in South Asia
- Overseas Development Institute
- Southern Voice
Research Team is:
- Anam Khan
- Samavia Batool
- Fazal Hussain
- Vaqar Ahmed
About the project:
The Millennium Development Goals (MDG) experience identifies inclusive employment as the critical link between growth and poverty reduction. Gains towards poverty reduction were persistent in countries which put in place institutions and reforms to ensure decent work for their labour force. While investment in human resource is important, equally essential is the reform of goods and labour markets so that economic expansion is able to absorb both existing unemployment and incremental increases in the labour force (Ahmed 2012).
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) recognize the importance of inclusive employment in the 8th goal which aims to “promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all”. There are 16 targets under this goal. These targets aim to achieve and sustain a respectable per capita economic growth and productivity in developing economies. Such growth should be broad based and help boost both wage- and self-employment. Governments are expected to carry out market and competition reforms so that creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship can be embraced (Mehta 2015).
The targets under goal-8 also focus on reducing youth unemployment and providing decent work to women, minorities and other marginalized communities. There is an emphasis on reforming the financial sector, so that the new entrants in the market are able to access the funds necessary to operationalize the innovative ideas. This linkage is important in South Asia as; a) one-fifth of the population in the region is between the ages of 15 and 24, b) the largest number of young people ever to transition into adulthood across the world will be in this region, c) youth unemployment is an acute problem and young adults continue to account for half of the unemployed population in the region, and d) youth are six-times more likely to be jobless than older workers.
Recent literature cites two important reasons for the challenges faced in the context of youth unemployment in South Asia. First is the slow growth in formal jobs vis-à-vis growth in the real sector’s value added. Second, there is a skills-mismatch in the labour market. The quality of workers demanded by employers and of those graduating from the universities and training institutions is at variance (Khan and Ahmed 2014, Wahab et al. 2013).
Taking the lead from this literature, we argue that the ambitious agenda set out in the targets for goal-8 of SDGs need a careful tailoring of policies and programmes across South Asian countries. The existing institutions responsible for implementation of policies under goal-8 will need to revamp their business processes to meet the expectations of a large youth population. Such a revamping may require legislative changes, e.g. ensuring some degree of gender parity in educational institutions and workplaces. This could also involve capacity building of the administration responsible for implementing the legislative changes, and new policies and programs towards active and passive labour market reforms (Ahmed et al. 2014).
Taking lead from the above mentioned and ongoing discourse on possible institutional arrangements for SDGs, this review paper discusses:
- Constraints to youth employment in South Asia
- Priority actions needed to accelerate progress on goal-8 and particularly youth employment
- Means of implementation and policy interventions to materialize priority actions (for youth employment)
- Possible sharing of experiences on mobilizing youth engagement with in South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) member countries.
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