NEW DELHI – More than half of the youth in South Asia leave schools without the skills necessary for getting the kind of jobs which would be generated by 2030, UNICEF warned on Wednesday.
Every day, nearly 100,000 young people from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Maldives, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Bhutan enter the labor market, and the region is estimated to produce the world’s largest workforce in the next few years.
But an estimated 54 percent of youth in the region don’t acquire “the necessary skills to get a decent job in the next decade,” according to a joint report by the Global Business Coalition for Education, the Education Commission and UNICEF.
Urmila Sarkar, the senior adviser in UNICEF’s Generation Unlimited program, told EFE that the regional governments were not reluctant to improve their education systems but it was a “massive undertaking.”
“They need to organize improvements in many different areas such as equipping schools, safe transport for students, training new teachers. It is expensive and complex,” Sarkar said.
According to her, the governments “fully understand the demographic issues and the connection with economic growth and are moving with great urgency.”
Sarkar said schoolchildren in the region were lacking basic reading, writing, and digital skills.
After passing through senior levels, students are also unable to acquire “transferable and soft skills” such as critical thinking, problem-solving and people management.
The “Voices of Youth” survey by UNICEF, which forms the basis of the report, showed that 26 percent of the young people cited lack of work experience among the key barriers to finding employment.
Some 23 percent said they had received no support, and most respondents received limited and inadequate support for improving their employability.
Around 44 percent of the surveyed youth complained of bribery demands and “discriminatory and unfair hiring practices.”
“One area of responsibility that we would like to see companies increase their good practices is responsible for hiring practices. We believe that companies will best serve themselves and their societies by employing on merit honestly and transparently,” Sarkar said.
According to UNICEF, South Asia would account for the largest youth labor force in the world by 2040, which is an advantage for the region, despite more and more jobs disappearing due to automation.
“It is always an advantage to have a skilled and motivated population that is growing. It increases productivity and helps economies develop higher-value-added sectors. It increases the markets for goods and services,” the expert said.
Sarkar acknowledged that economic transitions could be “painful in the sort and medium-term.” “Our worry is not about jobs disappearing but about other jobs not arriving.”
She said South Asia had competitive advantages like an advanced information technology services sector that could help boost job growth.
“Many young people who get jobs are still living in poverty,” she said.
Young people, Sarkar emphasized, “must be made aware of their rights at work.”
According to the International Labor Organization, around 54 percent of the working young people in South Asia lived under the poverty line, earning less than $3.1 per day, she noted.
Some 20 percent of them were facing extreme poverty: earning less than $1.9 daily.
Sarkar said 73 percent of the jobs in the region were precarious jobs and for women, the figure climbed to as high as 80 percent.