That's why the United Nations theme for International Youth Day this year focuses on “Safe Spaces for Youth.” These are spaces where young people can safely engage in governance issues, participate in sports and other leisure activities, interact virtually with anyone in the world, and find a haven, especially for the most vulnerable.
Giving youth the education and skills they need remains one of the world’s most pressing challenges. Globally, more than 260 million children and youth are not in school. Worse, nearly 60 percent of primary school children in developing countries fail to achieve minimum proficiency in learning. Adding a new layer of complexity to this challenge, technology is quickly transforming the skills required to compete for jobs and access economic opportunities—as highlighted in the World Bank’s forthcoming 2019 World Development Report on the changing nature of work. And for regions with a huge youth population such as South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, it’s time to put digital skills training front and center.
International Youth day is August 12. This year’s theme is Safe Spaces for Youth and the contributions they make towards freedom of expression, mutual respect and constructive dialogue. Among these spaces are civic spaces, public spaces, digital spaces and physical spaces. Personally, I am very interested in the digital spaces concept, not because I am a digital engagement specialist here at the World Bank, but because I think the future of tomorrow’s work is going to be very aligned with technology.
South Asia is booming. In 2018, GDP growth for the region as a whole is expected to accelerate to 6.9 percent, making it the fastest growing region in the world. However, fast GDP growth has not translated into fast employment growth. In fact, employment rates have declined across the region, with women accounting for most of this decline.
Between 2005 and 2015, female employment rates declined by 5 percent per year in India, 3 percent per year in Bhutan, and 1 percent per year in Sri Lanka. While it is not surprising for female employment rates to decline with economic growth and then increase, in what is commonly known as the U-shaped female labor force function (a term coined by Claudia Goldin in 1995), the trends observed in South Asia stand out. Not only has female employment declined much more than could have been anticipated, it is likely to decline further as countries such as India continue to grow and urbanize.
The unusual trend for female employment rates in South Asia is clear from Figure 1. While male employment rates in South Asia are in line with those of other countries at the same income level, female employment rates are well below.
If women are choosing to exit the labor force as family incomes rise, should policymakers worry? There are at least three reasons why the drop in female employment rates may have important social costs. First, household choices may not necessarily match women’s preferences. Those preferences reflect the influence of ideas and norms about what is women’s work and men’s work as well as other gendered notions such as the idea that women should take care of the children and housework. Second, when women control a greater share of household incomes, children are healthier and do better in school. Third, when women work for pay, they have a greater voice in their households, in their communities, and in society. The economic gains from women participating equally in the labor market are sizable: A recent study estimated that the overall gain in GDP to South Asia from closing gender gaps in employment and entrepreneurship would be close to 25 percent.
One of the encouraging signs that I pick up whenever I travel is the difference that technology is making to the lives of millions of marginalized people. In most cases it’s happening on a small, non-flashy scale in hundreds of different ways, quietly improving the opportunities that that have been denied to remote communities, women and young people for getting a foot on the ladder.
And because it is discreet and under the radar I dare as an optimist to suggest that we are at the beginning of something big – a slow tsunami of success. Let me give you some reasons why I believe this.
Our planet is undergoing a process of rapid urbanization, and the next few decades will see unprecedented growth in urban areas, including in urban infrastructure. Most of the growth will take place in low-and middle-income countries. The expansion and development of urban areas require the acquisition of land, which often requires physical relocation of people who own or occupy that land.
How can urban resettlement become a development opportunity for those affected by the process of urban development?
Our recent research suggests that attitudes related to women’s roles at home and in the public space are in flux and moving towards greater gender equality, at least in aspirations.
In recent focus group discussions with women conducted by the Pakistan Gender Platform in Pakistan’s four provincial capitals, most women voiced a preference to work outside the home in mixed gender settings, regardless of age, occupation or income levels, and despite the many barriers involved: from lack of safe public transport to sexual harassment at work. Yet, their choices are still limited by patriarchal norms: as one young FGD participant who expressed her desire to work noted, “We may become economically independent but will always be socially dependent.”
This tension between the changing aspirations of young Pakistanis and the barriers they face in realizing them came alive in a recent online poll that we launched as part of the Country Office’s flagship [email protected] initiative. Despite some limitations stemming from its sample and mode of delivery, the poll provides an eye-opening glimpse into the urban youth’s shifting aspirations and attitudes on gender norms.
This is why the Bank Group, a development institution, is broadening its support for refugees and their host communities in a way that complements – not replaces – the work of others, especially humanitarian partners. We are approaching the problem from a development perspective, addressing social and economic challenges in the medium-term. The goal is to enable refugees to go beyond simply meeting their basic needs to getting an education, accessing health care, working, traveling and opening businesses – so that they can live as ‘normal’ a life as possible, and contribute to their local economy. Including refugees in development planning and national systems is a key part of this approach.
The challenge with procuring a high volume of low-value goods is keeping the transaction costs down while still delivering the value-for-money trifecta: low cost, at the required quality, and on time. Alibaba, Amazon, eBay and many other online platforms do this for sellers by setting up a “honey pot” market place that attracts buyers and then largely automates the rest of the procurement, delivery and feedback processes. An e-marketplace can help make the agricultural sector more efficient in Pakistan.
One capstone of the exhibition was the construction of a shed intended to evoke the shelters found in places such as the Azraq Refugee Camp in Jordan. For the exhibition, the shed was enhanced with murals on its sides. Each mural was done by the hand of a different artist – Suhaib Attar, an artist from Jordan and son of Palestinian refugee parents, Marina Jaber from Iraq, a country with millions internally displaced people, Diala Brisly, a refugee from Syria, and Didier Kassai from the Central African Republic, a country in which violence and war have forced hundreds of thousands into displacement.