Combating youth unemployment

Focusing on skill development projects can help combat the rising youth unemployment

Combating youth unemployment

“I was trained to stitch baby garments under the SUCCESS programme’s Technical and Vocational Skills Training (TVST) component. Before that training, I had only supported my family members in household chores. After the training, I started assisting my family financially by earning approximately Rs 7,500 per month. Owing to the Covid-19 outbreak, my earning dropped to Rs 1,500-2,000 per month,” says a young woman from Mureed Khan Lund, in Dad Khan Jarwar union council.

According to the National Human Development Report (NHDR) 2020, Covid-19 had made 5 million people unemployed by June 2020. The increase in unemployment will lead to an additional 28 million people living below the poverty line by the end of 2021. Approximately two-thirds of the population in Pakistan is under the age of 30. This is the highest number of young people in the world and the second-highest fraction in the South Asian region after Afghanistan. And unfortunately, 31 per cent of the youth in Pakistan are not educated, employed or trained. The proportion is higher than in other South Asian countries.

The economy has not been able to generate enough jobs for the growing population. According to the Labour Force Survey, 2017-18, the overall unemployment rate in Pakistan was 5.8 per cent. The highest unemployment ratio, 11.6 per cent was among those in 20-24 years of age.

According to Pakistan Economic Survey 2019-20, the number of unemployed job seekers is expected to increase due to Covid-19. The initial estimates indicated that approximately 1.4 million jobs will be lost, which is 2.2 per cent of the originally employed workforce. In case of a complete shutdown, it is foreseeable that 18.53 million people or 30 per cent of the labour force, will be unemployed. The job losses will cause Rs 315 billion income losses. To overcome the rising unemployment, Pakistan needs to create approximately 1.3 million jobs every year for the next five years.

This cannot be achieved with only 6 per cent of the population having education beyond intermediate and spending as little on education as 3 percent of GDP. To tackle the issue of youth unemployment and bring the young population into the mainstream, it is necessary to equip the youth with marketable skills so that they can make both ends meet even without further formal education.

In the present circumstances, digital markets will play a vital role in engaging people in online income-generating activities. The youth need the skills to offer their services in the freelancing markets. 

In the present circumstances, digital markets will play a vital role in engaging people in online income-generating activities. However, to benefit from this the youth need the kind of skills they can offer in freelancing markets. Only a few free of cost online digital skill training programmes are currently available. These include Digiskills.

The government too has initiated several skill development programmes, including the one launched in 2020. It is called Hunarmand Jawan Programme and provides training in the most demanded trades to youngsters.

In addition, with the collaboration of the Sindh government and funding of the European Union, the Sindh Union Council and Community Economic Strengthening Support (SUCCESS) programme is working in eight districts of Sindh since 2015. A major objective of this programme is to provide technical and vocational skills training (TVST) to the poorest in the community in different trades to get employed and start small businessed.

From village Massoo Bozdar, Tando Allahyar, Hamida received such a training for 40 days. She earns now makes Rs 1,500 to Rs 4,000 a month. She says, Before joining the SUCCESS programme, my mother used to support me financially even after my marriage. After her death, I faced great hardship in running the household. Then I received training in tailoring under the SUCCESS programme and my income increased. I hope to accumulate a few assets through this programme.

Ismail Mehrani, a 20-something girl from Tando Allahyar district, received machine embroidery training under the SUCCESS programme. “Before Covid-19, I used to earn approximately Rs 800 per day, and now I earn Rs 600 because people do not have money to buy new clothes. An overall decrease in earnings has caused her to lower the fees she charges.”

The SUCCESS programme has so far trained 25,307 beneficiaries in various trades including applique work, tailoring, machine embroidery, baby garments, car driving, computer skills and motorbike mechanics to diversify household income sources. The number will rise to 46,041 by the end of the programme. As a skill development project, the SUCCESS Programme has limited coverage. The government needs to start more programmes focusing on digital skill training so that more of the youth can work as freelancers.


Sultana Ali Kori is a sociologist working as a field researcher at Rural Support Programmes Network. She can be reached at [email protected]

Fazal Ali Saadi is a development professional and working as programme manager at Rural Support Programmes Network. He can be reached at [email protected]

Combating youth unemployment