Skills Gap in South Asia: Indian and Pakistani Youth Lack 21st Century Skills

Only 18% of Pakistanis and 19% of Indians under the age of 24 have the skills required for 21st century jobs, according to a United Nations and Business Coalition for Education study. It's the percentage of all school age children on track to complete secondary AND reach the learning benchmarks spelled out  by National Achievement Test (NAT) 2016 for Pakistan  and NCERT 2017 for India.

South Asian economies have experienced some of the fastest growth rates in the world. They are driven by young and growing populations in the region. Sustaining growth will become increasingly difficult unless significant investments are made to prepare South Asian youth for 21st century jobs.

Today, South Asia is home to the largest number of young people of any global region, with almost half of its population of 1.9 billion below the age of 24, according to data produced by the Global Business Coalition for Education (GBC-Education), the Education Commission, and UNICEF.

Youth unemployment remains high (at 9.8% in 2018) because of changing labor market demands and over — or under — qualification of job candidates, according to the report.



In most South Asian countries, the projected proportion of children and youth completing secondary education and learning basic secondary skills is expected to more than double by 2030. Still, on current trends, fewer than half of the region’s projected 400 million primary and secondary school-age children in 2030 are estimated to be on track to complete secondary education and attain basic workforce skills.



Current efforts underway to fill the skills gap in the biggest South Asian economies of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh are grossly insufficient. Only 47% of Indian, 40% of Pakistani and 55% of Bangladeshi youths will have the skills required by 2030.

These estimates were generated based on a 2019 update of the Education Commission’s original 2016 projections model for the Learning Generation report. Most recent national learning assessment data used for each country as follows: BCSE 2015 for Bhutan, GCE O Levels 2016 for Sri Lanka, LASI 2015 for Bangladesh, NAT 2016 for Pakistan, NCERT 2017 for India, Nepali country assessment 2017 for Nepal, O Level Exam 2016 for Maldives. Afghanistan is not included due to lack of recent learning assessment data at the secondary level.

Expectations of huge demographic dividends in South Asia will not be met unless policy makers significantly increase focus and investments to rapidly up-skill their youthful populations.

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