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.
The other day a friend of mine, who is doing her MBA in the United Kingdom, was telling me all about how difficult it is to get an internship in the financial sector these days. I was kind of surprised when she mentioned this because, to be honest, I had not given a lot of thought to the correlation between the crisis and the job/internship search process until that moment. As crazy as it may sound, I knew about the crisis (I mean, who wouldn’t? It’s all over the news!), for me it was more like one of those things that you know are out there but which don’t affect your life directly.
The Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise at Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management announces its 2008 Base of the Pyramid (BoP) Narrative Competition co-sponsored by USAID and Cornell’s BoP Learning Lab. This short-essay competition seeks to highlight the challenges of implementing business in underserved markets and identify innovative business initiatives or solutions to those challenges. Essays must be in English and submitted no later than midnight, October 5, 2008. The first place winner will receive $4000 USD. For more details visit www.bopnetwork.org