Global Youth Conference 2012: Addressing Youth Unemployment in South Asia

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ImageI’ve just concluded a discussion on addressing youth unemployment around the world with experts at the Global Youth Conference currently happening and wanted to hear your thought as well as share some of my own on South Asia. Indeed, South Asia has grown rapidly and has created more and mostly better jobs. The region created 800,000 new jobs per month in the last ten years boosting economic growth and reducing poverty. Arrive in any South Asian metropolis and you’re often hit by the richness of activity throughout its busy streets.

The region’s coming demographic transition of more young people entering the work force is expected to contribute nearly 40 percent of the growth in the world’s working age (15—64) population over the next several decades. However, youth in South Asia still face many challenges during their transition to adulthood including malnutrition, gender inequality and lack of access to quality education. More working age people with less children and elderly dependants to support will either become an asset for the region to continue growing or a curse depending on the enabling environment for the creation of productive jobs.

Problems have to be tackled on multiple fronts across sectors to increase opportunities for a broader spectrum of the population. Focus must be placed on relieving deep infrastructure constraints, dealing with early childhood development, raising job related skills including for females, broadening the revenue base, tackling corruption, and encouraging regional cooperation and trade for more rapid job creation.

The good news is that all countries in South Asia have democratically elected governments and the progress of the last decade has raised the aspirations of youth. South Asian countries have a responsibility to respond to these aspirations and to take advantage of this demographic dividend by providing the necessary conditions for youth to seize opportunities and realize their goals.

For more information, check out the More and Better Jobs in South Asia report.


Kalpana Kochhar

Director, Development Policy and Finance, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

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