It is hard to talk about South Asia without invoking its demographics. The region will contribute nearly 40 percent of the growth in the world’s working age (15-64) population, and will need to add a staggering 1 to 1.2 million new entrants to the labor market every month for the next two decades. Absorbing the influx of youth into the labor force is one of South Asia’s core challenges. But while economists grapple with employment statistics and economic policy, jobs are created at the grassroots. Entrepreneurship is the spark that lights the fire, and the engine that generates opportunities in local communities.
In preparation for Sri Lanka’s next Country Partnership Strategy with the World Bank, we’ve been consulting with numerous groups, including those representing youth, for their ideas and feedback. Traveling to all corners of the country and interacting with many youth groups in Sri Lanka, it is clear that youth want more -- more opportunities, more facilities, more acceptance, more inclusion.
In contrast, discussing the same issues with the older generation, their view is that youth are unskilled, lack exposure to real-world challenges, are not dependable, and are too picky about available jobs.
The gap between the perceptions and aspirations of the two groups seems like the two rails of a railway track that are never destined to meet.