Asha, from Udaipur District in Rajasthan, used to sell vegetables in a nearby town. Over time, this traditional village woman observed that flowers were in demand near the town’s main temple for use as ritual offerings. With encouragement from Manjula, a micro enterprise consultant under the Bank’s Rajasthan Rural Livelihoods Project (RRLP), Asha began cultivating marigolds on part of her family farm where millets had always been grown. She has devoted a larger area of her farm to floriculture, and started a nursery to grow flower saplings to sell to other aspiring marigold farmers. Asha is now looking to expand her sapling nursery by renting more land, for which she is seeking a bank loan.
Outside Kathmandu in Nepal, Ambika Ranamgar used to work for building contractors, cutting marble and laying tiles in houses under construction. Then she struck out on her own. With encouragement and support from a community mobilizer under the Nepal Poverty Alleviation Fund (NPAF), Ambika took a loan of Rs. 80,000 ($740) to buy her own equipment, including a marble-cutting machine and a generator to power the machines during the city’s frequent power cuts. She then scouted for work visiting local hardware stores, and gradually began to get more clients. Ambika’s income has now more than doubled from her daily wage of Rs. 600 to reach between Rs. 1,000 to 1,500 rupees per day. She is now focused on getting more business and managing her supplies and workers. At the time we visited her, Ambika had employed five workers, including her husband, and was busy laying the flooring for two houses.
This places significant importance on continuous skills training to prepare the workforce ready for future jobs. For this, what are the policy options for Bangladesh? How can the country move forward to ride the wave of the changing tide while leveraging the burgeoning youth population?
To answer these questions, and contribute towards the skills dialogue, an International Skills Conference was organized recently in Dhaka under the theme “Building Brands for Skills of Bangladesh”. The conference brought together national and international policymakers, skills development practitioners, academics, and researchers, from China, Singapore and India for two days of knowledge sharing and networking.
Organized by the Technical and Madrasah Education Division of the Ministry of Education of Bangladesh and supported by the Directorate of Technical Education and the Skills and Training Enhancement Project (STEP), the conference covered topics ranging from connecting skills and jobs to future proofing technical education institutions to raising the brand of skills of Bangladesh. After two days of knowledge sharing, two important themes emerged:
Parvati Amma comes from Pulkattai village in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu where the Tamil Nadu Empowerment and Poverty Reduction Project (TNEPRP) has conducted a unique experiment. In an effort to raise the very low levels of women’s participation in India’s labor force, it is helping rural women break into jobs that are traditionally held by men, where they could increase their earnings significantly.
In this part of Madurai district, most of the men folk are successful masons. The women worked as helpers, merely passing tools to the men as they laid brick over brick to build houses and office blocks. Being unskilled, the women earned half the men’s wages.
Even though Tamil Nadu is one of the most urbanized states in India with high literacy rates, new buildings are proceeding apace amidst the state’s booming construction industry, attracting over a million migrant workers - more than a tenth of whom work as unskilled labor. There is, however, a paucity of trained masons.
The challenge for the women was to take on age-old social and cultural barriers and enter into this exclusive male preserve. Masonry has never been seen as a woman’s job in India, much less in this conservative rural area. For a start, the women wear sarees that constrain them from climbing onto scaffolding to build the higher storeys. Masons are also required to travel long distances for work, and staying away from their families is not something the women could easily do. Apart from mobility constraints and worksites that are not women-friendly; domestic responsibilities, burden of child and elderly care, and a conservative societal outlook, are all challenges.
Nonetheless, the women of Madurai’s Pulkattai village were not to be daunted. They saw this as an opportunity to prove their worth and double their wages in the bargain.
Supported by a visionary panchayat president and an expert mason from the village who had confidence in the women’s capability - Parvati Amma and 25 other women joined the masonry training offered by the project.
Ahmad Sarmast may owe his life to a fumble with his cellphone. He bent down in his seat to pick up his mobile just as a suicide bomber detonated his charge behind him at a music and theatre performance at the Institut Français d’Afghanistan in Kabul.
The founder and director of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music survived the December blast that killed one and injured more than 10. Dr. Sarmast suffered perforated ear drums and shrapnel in the back of his head. But the experience has not deterred him from his ambition of reviving and rebuilding Afghan musical traditions through establishing and leading the country's first dedicated music school.
“Music represents the right to self-expression of all the Afghan people,” he told me during a tour of the modest building in a suburb of Kabul where ANIM is housed.
The institute’s young musicians, many of them former street vendors or orphans, have toured the world to showcase Afghan music and present a more positive face of the war-torn country. An ensemble played at the World Bank in 2013 and went on to perform amid great acclaim at the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall in New York.
Dolly owns and runs “Lovely Fashion,” a tailoring shop in Tongi near Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. She is in her mid-twenties and earns around BDT 12,000 (USD 150) a month. “I work hard. I can support my family to live with dignity in the society,” says Dolly. “Finally I have peace of mind and financial independence.”
Promoting career opportunities through industry linkages for those who complete technical and vocational education is now a reality in Bangladesh. The local shipbuilding industry is thriving with strong growth potential. Currently, the demand for technically skilled workers in Shipbuilding industry is high. The industry is likely to become a major employment provider for the technically skilled workers in Bangladesh. Not surprising, that 55 of the 72 welders who had completed their training from Khulna Shipyard Technical Training Centre (KSYTTC) were absorbed by a private shipbuilding and light engineering firm, Khulna Shipyard Limited (KSY) in August 2014. The same company will hire 30 more in the coming month.
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.
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.
It has been a long journey for Shekar Nalla –from a small tribal village in Andhra Pradesh, India to selling insurance products in the metropolitan city of Hyderabad.
Shekar’s family lived a hand to mouth existence, and he thought that maybe someday in the future he would earn Rs. 24,000 (US$400) per year. But now, Shekar earns Rs. 156,000 (US$3000) annually through his new job with an insurance company.
His widowed mother no longer has to struggle because Shekhar sends her Rs. 60,000 (US$1500) a year. With his new job the status of the family has risen among the village headman and higher caste members, especially when he sent home a colored Samsung TV—the first in his village. “Richer relatives who avoided us, call me saying, ‘Shekar can you show me a job’,” said Shekhar.
The United Nations commemorated the International Year of Youth from August 11, 2010 to August 11, 2011. To promote youth participation towards progress and development, the Rural Livelihoods team at the World Bank has put youth like Shekar Nalla at the forefront of poverty reduction and maximizing rural growth.
My entry last week gave a quick profile of the South Asian overseas workers and discussed the crucial role of remittances received from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries (Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman) for South Asian economies. Today I’d like to discuss whether changes in the labor market policies of the GCC countries could jeopardize job prospects for South Asian migrant workers.
Creating jobs for GCC citizens is already on the top of the agenda in some of these countries and is bound to gain more momentum with the youth bulge. Efforts to create jobs for nationals through the “nationalization of the labor market” have been further intensified as a response to the recent events in the Middle East. Across the GCC, additional policy measures are being announced highlighting the need to replace expats with nationals in private and public sector. These messages have been the strongest in Saudi Arabia, but also in the U.A.E. and Kuwait.