Help wantedToday’s young generation has had to confront unprecedented challenges and opportunities at the same time. Even though young people outnumber other age groups across the world, they remain neglected.
Today’s young generation has had to confront unprecedented challenges and opportunities at the same time. Even though young people outnumber other age groups across the world, they remain neglected. If their potential were to be harnessed properly, the world would see dramatic changes in a short period of time. Even the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by 193 member states of the United Nations to eliminate global poverty and hunger can easily be achieved if today’s youths are allowed to play a pivotal role in national affairs.
Today’s youths are more likely to be in school than their parents were; they are more connected to the world than any generation before them. However, at no point in recorded history has our world been so demographically lopsided, with old people concentrated in rich countries and the young in not-so-rich countries. Today’s young people are facing problems ranging from recession to depression. Unemployment has emerged as a major problem across the globe. Rising joblessness among youths is increasingly being considered as an international ‘time bomb’. More than 75 million young people worldwide have no work. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimated that the global youth unemployment rate would reach 13.1 percent in 2016 and remain at that level through 2017.
Migration for work
In Nepal, around 450,000 young people join the labour market annually. The government has failed to create opportunities for most of them. An ILO study conducted among Nepali youths showed that 26.1 percent of university graduates were unemployed. As there are slim chances of being employed in Nepal, more and more youths, even the educated ones, are going abroad. According to the Foreign Employment Promotion Board, 1,800 youths leave Nepal daily to work in foreign countries.
These migrant workers face multiple challenges. Last year, when I visited Malaysia, I witnessed the plight of Nepali migrant workers there. According to the Nepal Embassy, an estimated 700,000 Nepali youths are currently working in this Southeast Asian country. Even those who work legally are harassed by the police and company owners. A 2013 study conducted by a team from the National Human Rights Commission showed that most migrant workers were given wrong advice and provided fake documents by manpower agencies in Nepal. Today, our young people are working in a precarious state abroad due to lack of opportunities at home.
Article 33 (1) of the constitution says, “Every citizen shall have the right to employment. The terms and conditions of employment and unemployment benefits shall be as provided for in the federal law.” Simply enshrining the right to employment as a fundamental right in the constitution won’t solve Nepal’s unemployment problem, unless the government is also serious about creating new jobs. Nepal’s top priority right now should be providing gainful job opportunities to its unemployed youths instead of distributing unemployment allowances.
Even though unemployment is the underlying cause behind Nepal’s poverty and backwardness, there has been no serious discussion on the issue. This is because our political parties have, in recent times, been completely preoccupied with political agendas. Political instability is one of the many reasons why Nepal, despite being abundantly rich in natural resources, is still a poor country with such a high unemployment rate.
No government formed after 1990 has been able to serve its full five-year tenure. Another reason behind the high unemployment is lack of industries, labour strikes, long power cuts, widespread extortion and militant trade unions which have decimated manufacturing. Industries at the receiving end of the deadly earthquake were further affected by the Indian blockade; without industrialisation, however, it is impossible to address unemployment. Nepal’s theory-oriented education system has been successful only in producing educated but unemployed youths who are unfit for today’s competitive job market.
Enabling young people to become entrepreneurs can play a critical role in tackling youth unemployment and empowering youth to become job creators and economic drivers of the future. Therefore, it is high time to create opportunities for the country’s young people as politicians have often exploited students for their vested interests.
When 36 out of the 75 districts in Nepal are facing food shortages, according to the Ministry of Agricultural Development, the government could start a green revolution in the agriculture sector by hiring unemployed youths—to reduce the jobless rate in the country as well as increasing farm productivity. Youth unemployment is both a threat and an opportunity for the country as the farm sector has a huge potential for job creation. The government needs to wake up and create opportunities for young people in the country; otherwise the ‘time bomb’ could go off at any time.
Kainee is a social activist and freelance writer