Empower the youth

February 04, 2023

LAHORE: Almost a whole generation has been lost in Pakistan due to absence of relevant and demand driven skills. A large number of unskilled workers are forced to live in poverty as the demand for higher skills makes them redundant.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) regularly stresses the need for improving the number and quality of technical and vocational education institutes; as absence of skill promotes informal economy; resulting in low paid and often non decent work.

Unskilled illiterate workers work day in day out with unrealistic career expectations as without basic skills they are unlikely to go far in their career. Youth unemployment is very high in Pakistan where the majority of the population is young.

Pakistani women too have low participation in the labour force and there is more unemployment even among the educated women. The ILO statistics reveal that in developed economies there are 39 apprentices per 1,000 workers.

In India there are 5 apprentices per 1,000 workers but in Pakistan there are only 0.3 apprentices per 1,000 workers. Pakistan has a low level of TVE schools that provide limited relevant training. Moreover, there is low prevalence of workplace training that has limited the productivity growth in the industry.

Pakistani planners must initiate specific programmes for jobless and under employed youth.

The children leaving schools early should be provided with alternate routes. There should also be increasing engagement with the industry.

India and Bangladesh are actively engaging different sectors of their industry in youth training. In Pakistan only a few apparel manufacturers train youth in the apparel making field.

The funding for TVE even after significant increase over years is still too low. It hardly covers the salaries and the recurring expenses.

There is no budget available to upgrade equipment in vocational training institutes. In most cases students are imparted training on obsolete equipment that the existing industries have discarded. The students that roll out of these institutes become self-employed workers in low earning fields. Youth unemployment is high, mainly due to mismatch of skills.

Pakistani planners must allocate at least 30 percent of the education budget for vocational training. In view of high illiteracy rates there must be a crash literacy course that enables the youth to operate and maintain the machines. It has been proved conclusively in Pakistan that with basic skills even the illiterate segments of the society can be gainfully engaged in economic activities.

Industrialists often complain when they provide on job skill training to the workers that they are often poached by their competitors. The industrialists should broaden their minds.

Workers switch to other enterprises when the industry that provides on job training engages these workers at lower than market wage.

After enhancement of skills, workers ought to be given market-based wages.

The company culture also plays a role in retention of the workers. In-house skill training should be considered as a corporate responsibility of each industry.

The industry associations must play an active role in this regard. Instead of establishing a school or two for vocational training, the associations must make it mandatory for its members to train in-house youth equivalent to 5 percent of their workers strength. The training pattern in all industries of that sector must be endorsed by the association.