Economic and social development should not be left to economists and specialists only.
This message is manifested in “Window of Opportunity,” a video highlighting the ambitions and goals of the World Bank’s 2015-19 Country Partnership Strategy in Pakistan.
Truck drivers, entrepreneurs, doctors, teachers and thousands of other citizens from Pakistan shared their ideas and helped identify opportunities and challenges to guide future policies and action areas.
These individuals come from a myriad different backgrounds but are united by a common drive to open up windows of opportunities for Pakistan.
As Pakistan readies to celebrate its independence day, we can all feel satisfied about progress in restoring macroeconomic stability, but should also realise that the country can and should do much better. Pakistan has many assets, of which it can make better use — from its vast water and river endowment, to its coastline and cities, to its natural resources. And there are upsides: a growing middle class, a lively informal economy and a strong influx of remittances. Pakistan can also be proud of the first peaceful transfer of power between two civilian governments. But to reach its full potential, Pakistan needs to focus on two critical areas, both obvious and urgent. It needs to ensure that its people have the means to fully participate in and contribute to the economy. And it needs to integrate itself more, globally and regionally.
The first challenge is demographic. As a result of rapid population growth, 1.5 million youngsters reach the working age each year. The question is, will the private sector be able to provide the jobs they need and want? And will the youth have the skills to get good jobs? Pakistan must do far better in education. Primary school net enrollment is about 57 per cent, well below other South Asian countries. Enrollment drops by half in middle school, with much lower levels for girls and children from poor families. This is not a good foundation to build on.
It is not surprising then that Pakistan also struggles to give all its citizens the opportunity to participate in building better lives for themselves. Only 25 per cent of women participate in the labour force, compared to 50 and 80 per cent in most developing countries. Women and girls deserve better. Research shows that girls with little or no education are far more likely to be married as children, suffer domestic violence, and live in poverty. This harms not only them, but also their children, their communities and the economy. Greater gender equality can enhance productivity and improve development outcomes for the next generation. It is smart economics.
Pakistan has taken steps to empower women. The Benazir Income Support Program, supported by the World Bank, has provided millions of women with national ID cards and makes direct payments to them, strengthening their ability to take decisions and move out of poverty.
The benefits of public spaces in the poorest parts of the world
We often think of amenities such as quality streets, squares, waterfronts, public buildings, and other well-designed public spaces as luxury amenities for affluent communities. However, research increasingly suggests that they are even more critical to well-being of the poor and the development of their communities, who often do not have spacious homes and gardens to retreat to.
Living in a confined room without adequate space and sunlight increases the likelihood of health problems, restricts interaction and other productive activities. Public spaces are the living rooms, gardens and corridors of urban areas. They serve to extend small living spaces and providing areas for social interaction and economic activities, which improves the development and desirability of a community. This increases productivity and attracts human capital while providing an improved quality of life as highlighted in the upcoming Urbanization in South Asia report.
Collaboration between industries and institutes increase job placement
After completing a course on becoming a beautician from the Ahsania Mission Training Center, Sonia Akter wondered how she would use her newfound skills to find employment. Luckily, she attended a job fair organized by STEP and quickly started a new career. “At the job-fair, I got an offer to join as a beautician in one of the beauty parlors. I accepted the offer and currently earning BDT 6,000 a month. “
Sonia is not alone. Out of the 2,000 job seekers who submitted their CVs, employers committed to hire an astounding 1,220 employees. Nazma Akter joined at Maroof Tailors & Cloth Store as a tailor, Md. Junayed Islam joined Voice Mail Mobile as a cell phone service technician, Pulok Roy joined Sigma Digital Electronics as an electrician, with each of them are earning currently around BDT 7,000 per month!
Career development is not just about what someone knows. It is also about how they sell their knowledge and skills to the job market and opportunities to engage with potential employers. Realizing the changing job market and help graduates seek competitive jobs matching their skills and interest – Skills and Training Enhancement Project (STEP) is organizing job fairs to boost the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) in Bangladesh.
A sizeable gap still exists between the employers’ requirement and the curriculum of the vocational training institutions in Bangladesh.The STEP project aims to provide linkages between the job market demand and student’s skill set. Many students who completed short-training courses or job seeking graduates benefited by communicating directly with the employers at the fair. Through job fairs, STEP has promoted the relationship between the job seekers and potential employers and helped them to understand the market demand and supply of the required knowledge and skills.