Task force suggests ways to create 2.5 million jobs amid job losses at home and abroad due to Covid-19Focus is on entrepreneurship, reviving sick industries and utilising land spaces allocated for the industries.
Prithvi Man Shrestha
A government formed task force has suggested creating over 2.5 million jobs in the next four-five years by restructuring and expanding various government programmes that are ongoing and by activating new proposed programmes.
The task force formed by the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supply last month, under the coordination of its joint secretary Puspa Raj Shahi, has recommended expanding and restructuring the government programmes focussed on entrepreneurship and employment, reviving sick industries and utilizing land spaces allocated for the industries.
The recommendation comes at a time when hundreds of thousands of Nepali people are expected to lose their jobs at home and abroad due to the Covid-19 pandemic which has ravaged most of the world’s economies.
As the government is preparing to present its budget for the next fiscal year 2020-21 on May 28, it is under pressure to create more jobs at home as over one million jobs in the tourism sector are already at stake as this is the hardest hit sector due to the pandemic.
Likewise, the Institute of Integrated Development Studies, a think tank, on Saturday revealed in a report that 60 percent jobs in macro, small and medium enterprises, part of which also belonged to tourism, have been estimated to have been lost.
According to the institute, the numbers are based on surveys conducted among 700 entrepreneurs, vulnerable workers, government employees and elected representatives in 23 districts.
According to the Foreign Employment Board, 127,000 migrant workers are expected to return after losing jobs abroad once the international travel restrictions are lifted and around 407,000 Nepalis are expected to return home in due course of time, as economies of the job destination countries have also been hit hard by the pandemic. Furthermore, every year, 500,000 people enter the country’s labour market and employment opportunities need to be created for them also.
“Considering possible unemployment at home and abroad due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we had formed a task force to suggest what can be done to increase employment in the industry and commerce sector,” Chandra Ghimire, secretary at the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supply, told the Post. “Based on the report of the task force, we have also made necessary recommendations to the Finance Ministry team that is preparing the budget.”
According to the report, parts of which the Post has seen, the largest number of employment could be created in “agriculture-based extensive self-employment programmes”.
Two million employment opportunities can be created in the sector through the combination of the Prime Minister Agricultural Modernization Programme and employment programmes, according to the report.
“Self-employment should be promoted by increasing access of people to the seed capital through a combination of various funds,” the report says. “For this, there should be an investment of Rs100 billion every year in the agriculture sector.”
According to the National Economic Census 2018, as many as 102,196 people are engaged in 23,899 registered firms related to agriculture, forestry and fishing.
In the entire government and non-government sectors, 3.11 million people are engaged in 900,924 entities, according to the economic census.
Similarly, as many as 315,000 jobs can be created in the industrial villages in the next four-five years provided 40 out of 45 such industrial villages are brought into operation. There are currently 37 industrial villages and nine are being planned, according to the report.
As many as 80,000 jobs can be created through the Macro-Enterprises Development for Poverty Alleviation, a project run by the Industry Ministry in almost all local levels, provided its deadline is extended and a budget of Rs22.7 billion is allocated.
The programme should be run by injecting resources into the budget of the local government, the report suggested.
As many as 40,000 jobs can be created under the proposed new projects—Employment Creation for Migrant Workers and Improving Livelihood targeting Karnali and Sudoorpaschim Provinces—where an investment worth Rs2.7 billion will be required. “For this, resources can be generated from the donors,” the task force suggested.
Likewise, the ongoing Rural Enterprise and Remittance Project (Samriddhi) can contribute 30,000 new jobs provided its implementation modality is amended and resources are added.
As many as 30,000 jobs can be created through the development of proposed 12 special economic zones.
As many as 15,000 new jobs can be created through full utilization of existing spaces in industrial estates. Another 10,000 jobs can be created through a new project— Growth Enterprise Development Model-which will come into implementation from September.
Remaining jobs are expected to be created from Cottage and Small Industry Promotion Centre, rehabilitation of sick industries and construction of dry ports.
Likewise, self-employment can be promoted through partnership between the start-ups and Youth and Small Entrepreneurs Self-Employment Programme.
Considering the potential losses of jobs, the government has made employment one of the four key priorities for the next fiscal year.
According to the policies and programmes for the next fiscal year presented at the Parliament on Friday, the four key priority areas are—health, education, employment and economic recovery.
In order to promote self-employment, the government has announced that it would offer seed money to innovative youths, entrepreneurs and returnee migrant workers to start new ventures.
The government also said that it would also help new entrepreneurs with skills development and improve market access.
However, Shankar Sharma, an economist and former vice-chairman of the National Planning Commission, said that creating jobs as envisioned by the Industry Ministry would be challenging because of the absence of good training to produce skilled workers and a lack of proper collaboration between training institutes and industrial enterprises.
“Provided that the well equipped training institutes offer training and industries offer placement for the trained workers, there is a scope for higher employment,” he said. “Such modality should be tried by keeping migrant workers at the centre, as many of them are skilled for working in factories abroad.”
Sharma said he appreciates the suggestions of the Industry Ministry regarding ensuring collaboration between the Prime Minister Agriculture Modernization Programme and employment programmes.
“Creating jobs in such huge numbers, however, will be challenging,” Sharma told the Post.