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Putting Food on the Table

Naomi Ahmad's picture

Halima Khatun never had to worry about putting food on the table when her husband was alive. Her husband had a business which provided enough for their four children and they lived fairly contented till seven years ago, when her husband suddenly passed away.

As the years went by, one by one the children married, moved out and had their own family to take care of. Halima was left alone, fending for herself, and took up weaving mats and embroidery to help get by. But then her daughter, who used to work at a garments factory in the city after her divorce, suddenly fell sick and unable to work, she moved back in with her four-year old son. Halima was thrown into utter desperation and knew not how to make ends meet.

Getting to Work: Tackling Youth Unemployment in South Asia

Mabruk Kabir's picture

 “Young people ought not to be idle,” quipped Margaret Thatcher, “It is very bad for them.” That was twenty years ago. With over a million youth currently out of work in Britain today – 21% of the population – her words remain unfortunately prophetic. And it’s not just industrial countries that are in a funk. The “arc of unemployment” does not discriminate: it cuts across southern Europe through the Middle East to South Asia. Almost half of the world’s young people live along this arc, and it is a demographic dividend that is quickly becoming a demographic liability.

Consider South Asia: a region home to the largest proportion of unemployed and inactive youth in the developing world, a whopping 31%. Many attribute this to social norms, as many South Asian women do not work for cultural reasons. But with a growing middle class, gender norms are rapidly evolving.

Engaging the Future: Conversations with Global Youth

Mabruk Kabir's picture

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.

It’s Time to Collaborate to Tackle the Jobs & Youth Agenda

Anushka Wijesinha's picture

“While unemployment is around 5% in Sri Lanka, youth unemployment is nearly 3 times that. Youth unemployment is a critical challenge for us right now”, I said, in my remarks on Sri Lankan perspectives at a South Asian youth dialogue on the sidelines of the World Bank–IMF Spring Meetings last month. “Hey, what are you complaining about? Youth unemployment is almost 50% in Greece right now!”, was the immediate response I got from a World Banker in the audience. I was taken slightly aback, but it made it very clear to me - the youth unemployment issue is a gripping issue for many of the world’s economies right now, and even if the numbers may not always be on the same scale and each country has different reasons for why it’s a high-priority policy issue right now.

The last year and a half has seen everyone sit up and take notice of youth unemployment like never before – either because of the Arab Spring or protests by discontent educated youth in European capitals. The attention of economists and governments alike is on it – how did it become such a challenge? How can we address it?

More and Better Jobs in Bangladesh

Sanjay Kathuria's picture

We launched South Asia’s first regional report, ‘More and Better Jobs in South Asia’ in a series of events in Dhaka early last week.

Through events including a seminar with youth at the University of Dhaka, a formal report launch the next day, a TV interview with the South Asia Chief Economist, Kalpana Kochchar, and an op-ed in the leading English language newspaper, the report helped  generate discussion on core economic challenges facing Bangladesh, as job creation are highly correlated with the challenges of faster growth.

Bangladesh, along with other South Asian countries, has seen steady job growth and a substantial decrease in poverty over the past three decades. The country has added nearly 1.2 million new jobs every year over the last ten years, and this has been accompanied by increasing real wages and declining poverty amongst all categories of workers. This performance will have to be improved in the future, owing to Bangladesh's early progress in its demographic transition. With substantial reductions in infant and child mortality following a significant decline in fertility rates, Bangladesh's working age population is growing more rapidly than its young and old dependents. In turn, this can be attributed to Bangladesh’s success in nurturing the desire for smaller families, through its reproductive health program as well as its emphasis on girls’ education.

Global Youth Conference 2012: Addressing Youth Unemployment in South Asia

Kalpana Kochhar's picture

I’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.

More Foreign Direct Investment in Retail for India?

Bingjie Hu's picture

Recently, India has seen a heated debate on the entry of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the country’s $400 billion retail market. In November 2011, the government proposed a policy change to open up the country’s multi-brand retail segment -- for retailers such as Wal-Mart and Carrefour. Foreign investors were to be allowed to own up to 51 percent of a multi-brand retailer if they invested at least $100 mn, with half spent on infrastructure development in India. Within weeks of the announcement, the government suspended the decision amid protests from opposition parties and small shopkeepers citing concerns over large scale job losses, especially in the small, unorganized retail sector.

What is FDI?

Foreign direct investment (FDI) refers to the net inflows of foreign investment to acquire a lasting management interest (more than 10 percent of voting stock) in a domestic company. In 1997, the government permitted 100 percent FDI in the wholesale cash and carry trade, in which customers arranged the transport of goods from wholesalers and paid for goods in cash (not credit), on a case-by-case basis.

How to Make Horticulture Value Chains Work for Women?

Miki Terasawa's picture

Sima is a chairperson of Ghoryan Women Saffron Association. Her association was formed by the Danish Committee for Aid to Afghan Refugees (DACAAR) and received a small grant to help improve their post-harvest processing. The women purchased a saffron drier and learned post-harvest processing, including hygiene, grading, sorting, and packaging. They identified two women trainers to ensure quality control. In 2010, the association doubled saffron production, and the sales price increased by almost 110 percent. From the user fee, the women saved Af 108,700 (approximately US$ 2,100) and plan to buy another drier. “Men now make tea for their wives, when we are busy during the saffron season,” Sima says.

Do Young People have the Skills to Realize their Aspirations?

Keshavi Puswewala's picture

My friends and I often have casual chats at the university café and cafeteria about random topics ranging from life, the future, jobs and wherever else the conversation leads us. Recently, I participated in a discussion conducted by a research company where they asked for insights from University seniors and recent graduates about our aspirations.

There were 7 of us in the group from the University of Colombo, Kelaniya, Jayewardenepaura and Moratuwa. The representative from the research company asked about our goals. Though I’ve known them for 3 years, this is the first time I heard them seriously talk about their ambitions and goals in life. Most of them have very lofty goals and objectives. We were asked to list important considerations for potential jobs. This is what we came up with.

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.

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