MUZAFFARABAD (ILO News): The State of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) has high Youth unemployment rate (18.44%) as compared to other regions and provinces. Besides having the highest literacy rate, the Youth unemployment is on rise due to multi factors including the absence of youth employment strategy for last 70 years. This situation calls for a coherent and integrated Youth Employment Strategy to make visible impact. This was the conclusion of the Regional Consultation on Youth Employment held in Muzaffarabad on 19th December 2017.
The Government of AJK in collaboration with Prime Minister’s Youth Programme (PMYP) and International Labour Organization (ILO) organized the fourth provincial consultative workshop on “Youth Employment Framework”. The workshop, which is part of a series of consultations across the country, was attended by the Government departments from AJK, United Nations’ agencies, Academia, Civil Society Organizations, employers, Workers’ organizations, Youth-led organizations and the youth representing AJK.
Seven thematic areas relating to Youth Employment were discussed including 1) Education and Training 2) Employment opportunities at provincial level 3) Youth Employment in Rural Value Chains 4) Youth Employment in Mega Development Projects 5) Overseas Employment of Youth 6) Self-employment and Enterprise Development and 7) Social Protection for unemployed Youth.
In his opening remarks, the Chief Guest Mr Raja Muhammad Abbas Khan, Secretary Sports, Youth, Culture, Food and Transport, Government of AJK welcomed all the participants on behalf of AJK government and congratulated Youth Affairs’ department, ILO and PMYP for organizing workshop on important subject of youth employment. Mr Khan said that youth unemployment rate in AJK is quite high due to the fact that most of the employment opportunities are available only in public sector. Hence there is need to unveil employment opportunities in other areas like enterprise development for youth and particularly for those living in rural areas. Mr. Khan highlighted the importance of youth in bringing positive change in any country. He also highlighted the flaws that exists in the education system of AJK and the efforts being made by AJK government to remove those flaws. He said that although the education level in AJK is high but the quality of education is low due to multiple reasons that includes lacking capacity of teachers, and non-implementation of policies where exists. Mr Khan strongly recommended for exclusion of pre-job experience requirement for youth in AJK. He appreciated the efforts made by the AJK Technical Education and Vocational Training authority (AJK-TEVTA) for imparting technical and vocational skills to the youth. Mr Khan assured the AJK government’s commitment for development of Youth Employment Strategy.
In his remarks, Mr Zahoor Awan General Secretary Pakistan Workers’ Federation (PWF) shared that ILO has developed 189 Labour Conventions that also includes ILO core conventions that have been ratified by the Government of Pakistan. He shared that ILO convention on fundamental rights at work is binding for all the countries whether they have ratified it or not. Mr Awan emphasized on the importance of employable skills for youth and enterprise development. He raised the issue of pre-job experience requirement for youth as major obstacle on getting employment. He also highlighted that social protection is vital for youth to avoid any unrest situation in the country. Mr Awan also urged fo development of Youth Employment Strategy in AJK.
The ILO Senior Programme Officer, Mr Saad Gilani thanked all the participants on behalf of ILO and Prime Minister’s Youth Programme (PMY) for their participation in the workshop. He shared that this is the fourth consultative workshop after the ones that took place in Peshawar, Lahore and Quetta. Mr Gilani highlighted the importance of Youth bulk for development of country. He shared that Pakistan has 9th largest labour force in the world and urged on getting benefit from this opportunity. He emphasized on investing in developing policies and action plans for youth employment and to identify new avenues for Youth Employment. He also indicated that the proposed Youth Employment Framework would be instrumental in achieving global Sustainable Development Goal # 8.6 which calls for halving youth, Not in Education, Employment & Training (NEET), by 2020. Mr Gilani appreciated the commitment shown by AJK government in organizing this workshop and for developing provincial youth employment strategy. Mr Gilani said that under Pakistan’s Decent Work Country Programme (2016-2020), ILO was providing technical and financial support to ILO’s constituents (i.e. Employers, Workers and Government of Pakistan) to create an enabling environment for the creation of decent work for young women and men and would continue its support in this regard.
ILO’s collaboration with Prime Minister Youth Programme to formulate youth employment framework is an example of on-going efforts to create decent work opportunities for youth.
This was the fourth Provincial Consultation, after KP, Punjab and Balochistan. Similar consultations are planned in other provinces and regions of the country in coming months.