South Asia is home to the largest youth population in the world with almost half of its population of 1.8 billion below the age of 24. At a time when the future of work is more unpredictable due to increased automation of the workforce and other dynamics driving the Fourth Industrial Revolution, projections show that on current trends, only 46% of young people in South Asia will have the most basic skills necessary for the workforce in 2030.
The future of South Asia’s young people is at a crossroads. Governments, young people and the business community have a unique opportunity to innovate and foster a generation of young people ready for the future of work and global engagement – or leave behind more than half of the next generation’s potential.
Taking advantage of this unique moment to harness opportunity for the next generation will require large-scale transformations in South Asia, including drastic changes in education, skilling systems and employment for children and youth. Responding to this critical economic and social development challenge, UNICEF Regional Office for South Asia, the Global Business Coalition for Education, and Generation Unlimited hosted the South Asia Youth Skills and Solution Forum to find solutions and build strategic partnerships between key stakeholders that will improve the future of education, skills, entrepreneurship, and employment for South Asian youth.
CALL TO ACTION
Building on the Forum, participants were challenged to re-align, re-think, and re-imagine new partnerships, policies and programs to unlock investment and rally resources, co-create, and scale up solutions which ensure every young person in South Asia in learning, training, employment or entrepreneurship by 2030.
Using the platform of the forum, business, governments and young people are encouraged to make concrete commitments which:
– Address the crisis in secondary-age education and scale up digital literacy
- Greater public-private partnership and investment in expanding and modernizing secondary education which ensure strong foundational, transferrable and job-specific skills
- Increased investment in quality and accredited alternatively learning pathways for out-of-school youth
– Prioritise school-to-work transition and decent jobs for youth
- Foster public-private collaboration and scale-up of initiatives which link education to on-the-job learning through career guidance, internships, apprenticeships, job shadowing, including proven initiatives that improve the school to work transition for young women
- Create job-matching platforms which better connect employers with young labour market entrants and build youth networks within chambers of commerce
– Promote youth entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial mindsets
- Support the start, growth and sustainability of youth-led businesses through a tailored combination of training, business mentoring, financial education as well as, increased availability of financial services, and information especially for young women, young migrants, and refugees and other vulnerable youths
- Establishing and contribute to an entrepreneurship fund in the region, to support youth entrepreneurs and better connect them to networks and markets. Integrate youth employment and enterprise objectives in value and supply chains
– Empower youth, particularly young women, to exercise their civic and political rights in decisions that affect them in life and work
- Create and sustain organized structures for young people’s participation and civic engagement
- Invest in young people’s capacities, networks and partnerships. Support youth-led organizations and initiatives including social entrepreneurship
– Strengthen regional network and national partnerships for sustained action and knowledge exchange post the Forum
- Partners across government, industry, and education jointly work on innovations to improve education and skills solutions organized across economic sectors or industries, nationally or sub-nationally, or on behalf of youth-led organizations. These partners advocate and share knowledge to take proven initiatives to scale
- Existing links strengthened and new links forged across borders to facilitate joint solutions and experience sharing. Issues that transcend national boundaries like accepted accreditation standards and distance education in ICT from regional centres to be explored
Everyone has a role to play – business, government and young people – if we are to deliver the 2030 Agenda, in particular Goal 4 on equitable and inclusive quality education and lifelong learning for all, Goal 5 on gender equality, and Goal 8 on decent work and economic growth.
Commitments for further engagement and partnership building are still welcome after the forum.
Commitments can be made through the South Asia Youth Skills and Solutions Forum website or by email and sent to: