The new workforceDecent work means opportunities for everyone to find employment that is productive and that delivers a fair income, security in the workplace, social protection for families, better prospects for personal development, and social integration.
Decent work means opportunities for everyone to find employment that is productive and that delivers a fair income, security in the workplace, social protection for families, better prospects for personal development, and social integration. Additionally, it is important that all women and men are given equal opportunities in the workplace. Nepal has a persistent problem of low economic growth coupled with significant under-employment.
I am happy to reiterate that Sustainable Development Goal-8 has specifically focused on inclusive economic growth, employment and decent work. The International Labour Organisation says global unemployment is expected to rise by 3.4 million in 2017. Nepal has also been facing a huge challenge in generating employment. Transforming the national economy in a way that increases the number of quality jobs is essential for sustainable development. Employment promotion has to be a central agenda for all actors. The goal of economic growth, employment and decent work can be translated into reality if we can develop a conducive policy environment, create quality job opportunities, reduce the huge number of working poor who barely earn enough to sustain themselves, and increase the participation of women in the workforce.
In Nepal, tourism has the greatest potential to generate employment opportunities and local economic development, followed by hydro power, agriculture, construction and information technology. Tourism can grow faster with some intensive efforts in policy and programmes. The government of Nepal needs to focus on these employment generating sectors for massive growth in the public-private partnership framework. Employment is a cross-cutting issue among many different ministries, departments and other key actors, so collaboration is required to achieve the intended objectives. Most importantly, an employment-friendly environment needs to be developed in the country and employment has to be emphasised as the main target. Formalising the informal economy also contributes to promoting employment and improving working conditions.
Annually, around 500,000 youths enter the labour market in Nepal. In order to increase the number of women and youths in the workforce, we have to have targeted interventions that develop their employability. Market-driven skills and education are very important. Our educational institutes and job providers need to collaborate and revise vocational education and skill development packages to meet market needs. But there is currently no alignment between academic institutes and job providers. Young graduates are facing problems in finding jobs; at the same time, businesses are also not finding employees with appropriate skills and knowledge. This shows there is a mismatch in the job market.
Urban and rural scenarios
The nature of work is changing, so our young graduates need to develop their competence in line with this emerging reality. Mainstream curricula for university education also need to be revised in a way that addresses market needs. To increase the number of women workers in a workforce, issues of workplace improvements, non-discriminatory environments, occupational safety, equal wage for equal work, etc need to be addressed. Additionally, workers’ knowledge and skills have to be developed. We also need to design and implement specific interventions for mainstreaming women into the workforce.
We must find the root cause of women and youths being left behind, and give special attention to their representation in the workforce. Nepal has an additional demographic advantage in that youths make up a huge proportion of the national population. To facilitate their entry and participation in the workforce, they need appropriate entrepreneurship skills, access to credit, conducive business environments, improved industrial relations and infrastructure development. Promoting jobs is an important issue, but improving the conditions of the working poor is another key aspect in formulating employment-centric plans and programmes with public-private partnership. Creating better linkages between job seekers and providers is also important to help women and youths enter the job market.
There are different scenarios for urban and rural employment, and we must have comparative analyses from both perspectives. The opportunities in rural and urban areas are different. Thus, there should be different approaches to address urban and rural unemployment. In urban areas, wage-based employment seems more appropriate due to the availability of different enterprises and businesses, whereas in rural area, self-employment possibilities can be maximised by creating both farm and non-farm based small businesses.
Entrepreneurship skills, access to credit and small business-friendly policies and programmes need to be implemented for livelihood and income generation in rural areas. There are successful examples of rural employment promotion, such as the ‘One Village One Product’ movement, community-based cooperatives and small scale businesses, that we can learn from.
Rana is president of the Federation of Nepalese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI); this article is part of a weekly series on SDGs