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What Does More and Better Jobs in South Asia Mean?

Pradeep Mitra's picture

The Track Record

Imagine adding the population of Sweden—somewhat under 10 million— to your labor force year after year for a decade. Insist that the wage workers among them earn increasing real wages and that poverty among the self-employed decline over time. What you have just described is not quite South Asia's record on the quantity and quality of job creation between 2000 and 2010. The region has done better.

Poverty has fallen, not only among the self-employed, but among all types of workers—casual laborers who are the poorest, regular wage and salary earners who are the richest and the self-employed who are in between. This hierarchy of poverty rates among the three employment types has endured over decades. Thus improvements in job quality have occurred predominantly within each employment type rather than through movement across types. The composition of the labor force among the employment types shows little change over time. The self-employed, many of whom are in farming, comprise the largest share, reflecting the predominance of agriculture in much of the region. Casual laborers make up the second largest share in rural areas.

Surprises at the Annual Meetings!

Shaiza Qayyum's picture

Have you ever had the feeling of being overwhelmed because you got more, much, much more than what you were expecting? Well, I hadn’t, till I came for the World Bank and IMF Annual meetings.

Usually, any long, monotonous sessions would lull me to sleep, but somehow, I was wide awake in every session that I attended, despite being jet-lagged and sleep-deprived! Be it the youth capacity building session with the IMF officials, or getting a chance to mingle with the IMF sponsored youth leaders and CSOs, the learning only in the first 5 hours of the meetings was phenomenal. I must confess, my mind was boggled, and I felt a little dizzy, either due to sleep-deprivation or due to the information overload, I can’t truthfully say!

It wasn’t until the second day that things came back to normal. Maybe it was the jet lag wearing off; maybe it was the fact that all the other World Bank youth delegates had gelled in so well, as if we had known each other for ages, but there was something about the place that started feeling like home.

What I Learned at the Annual Meetings...

Keshavi Puswewala's picture

I can still remember making a speech about “Experience is the best teacher,” when I was 14 years old and didn't have much of experience about life and the world.

I think the 168 hours or so that I spent in DC with fellow youth delegates were an enlightening and very powerful experience that changed my perception about the world, people, and myself. The launches, interesting live broadcasts, sessions, presentations, publications all made at least one change in the way I think and the way I interpret what I see. Now I believe I am looking at things in a broader perspective than I used to and I have started thinking about the world in a different way.

And the Youth Delegates are...

Joe Qian's picture

A huge thanks to everyone who participated in the Annual Meeting South Asia Youth Delegates competition!

With so many fascinating and well qualified applicants, it was truly difficult to narrow them down. After days of rigorous review and deliberations, we'd like the candidates below to join us.

No matter what, we would like to continue working together with all of you on different initiatives going forward. Please let us know your thoughts and how we can work together in the near future. Thank you! 

Wanted: South Asian Youth Leaders who want to make a Difference!

Joe Qian's picture

Update: The participants have been announced!

Thank you so much for the overwhelming interest and applications that you've sent. If you were not selected, we will continue to work together on sharing the ideas in your essays that you've submitted over the next few months. Thanks again! 


Are you from a South Asia Region (SAR) country, 18-25 years old and engaged in youth activities and development initiatives? 

Apply to join the World Bank & IMF’s Annual Meetings from September 23-25, 2011 in Washington DC, USA.

Application deadline: August 19, 2011. Details below.

Will recent events in the Middle East Affect Remittance Flows to South Asia?

Ceren Ozer's picture

For countries with substantial numbers of workers in the Middle East, recent events have not only raised concerns for the repatriation and welfare of their citizens, but have also raised fears of a possible slowdown in remittances. Will remittance flows noticeably decrease due to recent events in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia?

For South Asian countries, remittances are among the largest and most stable sources of foreign exchange and their developmental impact have been remarkable. For example, in Nepal national poverty level has come down from 42% to 31% during 1996 to 2004, and to 21% today, largely on the account of remittances which finance household consumption as well as education and health expenditures. Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka, were among the top 15 remittance recipients in 2009—with inflows being equivalent to 24% of the GDP in Nepal, 12% in Bangladesh, 8% in Sri Lanka, 5% in Pakistan and 4% in India.

Gulf States employ more than 11 million expatriate workers, an estimated 8 million or more from South and East Asian countries. Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E, and Qatar are top destination for South Asian migrants and are main sources of remittance inflows. The table as well as the country profiles below demonstrates the sheer magnitude of migrant workers in the Arab Gulf countries and their contributions to the labor force; sometimes greater in overall numbers and proportion than the respective labor force in the countries.

Capitalizing on the Demographic Transition

Michael Engelgau's picture

For decades, the leading causes of mortality have differed between low income countries and high income countries. Those who have worked their careers in health and development probably never thought they would see the day when maternal/child health and communicable diseases would not be the leading health burden in many low income countries.

The new actor is non-communicable diseases (NCDs), which are characterized by chronic diseases (cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and chronic respiratory disease), along with injury and mental health which are now responsible for half the health burden in South Asia. Thus, the challenge now is how best to juggle this “double burden”.

Currently, many compelling reasons are pushing countries toward starting to tackle NCDs. From both a social and political standpoint, South Asians are 6 years younger than those in the rest of the world at their first heart attack. This type of trend threatens a country’s ability to fully capitalize on the demographic dividend from a larger mature working force because healthy aging is necessary, which in turn, requires tackling NCDs.

Racing to the Top at Economic Students Meet

Joe Qian's picture

An unmistakable sense of achievement and enthusiasm emanated through the halls of the 7th South Asia Economics Student Meet held in Colombo, Sri Lanka last month. The theme of Economic Freedom and Poverty Reduction in South Asia brought together 192 of the top economics undergraduates from universities throughout the region to showcase their economic knowledge and talent.

Demonstrating superior knowledge, creativity, and critical thinking skills; the participants exchanged ingenious ideas in exploring creative solutions to regional economic challenges while making new friendships to pave the way for greater mutual learning as emerging leaders and future policy makers.

Students from universities in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka participated in the 3-day conference focusing on economic freedom. As Professor Bishwambher Pyakuryal from Tribhuvan University in Nepal noted, “countries with higher degrees of economic freedom also tend to have higher incomes and levels of development.”

Budding Economists Showcase Regional Cooperation

Dulanii Liyanahetti's picture

It was a cold evening back in 2004 when a few students and professors of Ramjas College of the University of Delhi got together and initiated an idea that would form the basis for improving regional cooperation among South Asian countries. South Asia has many things in common, and is affected by diverse sets of issues that require cooperation to solve. Under this premise, the South Asian Economics Students’ Meet (popularly known as SAESM) came to life with valuable contributions made by five leading South Asian Universities offering Economics Degrees; the University of Delhi in India; Lahore School of Management Sciences in Pakistan; University of Dhaka in Bangladesh; University of Colombo in Sri Lanka and Tribhuvan University in Nepal.

Celebrating Bangladesh and Nepal’s Progress in Achieving the Millennium Development Goals

Joe Qian's picture

The United Nations hosted the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Summit in New York City last month, with the participation of over 120 global leaders from both developed countries and emerging markets. This year’s summit was an especially momentous occasion since it marks 10 years since the Goals were set into motion and begins the 5 year countdown to 2015 when the goals are to be met.

At the awards ceremony on September 19th, both Bangladesh and Nepal received MDG country awards for advancements towards the development goals in health indicators with India receiving a nomination for greatly increasing access to education.

We asked South Asia's Human Development Director, Michal Rutkowski about these achievements.

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