ENTREPRENEURSHIP IN PAKISTAN
Out of the thousands of graduates churned out annually by tertiary institutions, only a handful of them get employed, not forgetting the fact that there exists a battalion of unemployed youths.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics Q4 2016 reports, youth unemployment stands at 47.4%. The youths are the bane of any nation and any development policy that does not take into account their aspirations will invariably fail to achieve their desired objectives.
The issue of youth unemployment is a global phenomenon, particularly in transition economies like Pakistan. The social, economic and political costs of such crisis will be extreme. As such, each country grapples with solutions to this seemingly intractable problem. Youth unemployment is potentially dangerous as it sends disturbing signals to all segments of the economy.
Why are we stuck with these dead woods? Every problem has its own solution; youth unemployment is no exception. The role of entrepreneurship in curbing youth unemployment cannot be overemphasized. Studies have shown how beneficial entrepreneurship can be to a country.
According to Joseph Schumpeter (2008), entrepreneurship plays an important role in the capital and output growth of an economy and subsequently economic development.
Developing the ability to recognize opportunity and giving young people the tools to capitalize on those opportunities empower their innovative prowess and consequently reduce the incidence of unemployment amongst them.
It is in allowing young people to follow their dreams and start their own businesses that we will see a significant change in youth employment statistics. To bring about a transformational change, we must create a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem. The creation of this ecosystem jointly rests on the private and public sector.
On the part of the government, it needs to design macroeconomic and fiscal policies to help drive job growth by encouraging and rewarding job creators rather than job seekers. It needs to provide an enabling environment to enable aspiring and early-stage entrepreneurs to succeed. Measures must also be taken to embed entrepreneurship at the heart of the educational system. The private sector, with their deep expertise in technology and research, can play a defining role. They should embark on expanding programs which nurture the seeds of success through entrepreneurship training.
How can entrepreneurship make a difference in the employment and skills crisis in Pakistan?
The case studies also point to eight factors that can make programs and practices most effective.
- Build multi-sector partnerships
Multi-sector partnerships, by drawing on complementary expertise, are indispensable for implementing scalable solutions. For example, while a single business can create a partnership with a local academic institution for its own talent needs, partnerships between several businesses and academic institutions can increase the quality of the talent pool available to all, often in a more cost-efficient way and with greater societal benefits. While potentially more complex to implement, such partnerships take into account the widest range of interests. About two-thirds of the featured case studies involve civil society organizations in their partnership model, which helped incorporate the views of students, teachers, and others whose voice is important in designing sustainable solutions.
- Develop win-win approaches
Initiatives that match the public good with private interest are often most sustainable in the long term. Several featured case studies demonstrate that business can align external initiatives with internal organizational priorities and combine short- and long-term talent considerations with an enhanced impact for both the business and society. While many types of business-led initiatives can have a positive impact on communities, they are more likely to be sustainable if they are connected to a core business area. For example, initiatives that support entrepreneurs in a business’ own value chain or initiatives that connect the business’ employees to local educational institutions are more likely to last than those that are disconnected from a business and its employees.
- Understand the talent value chain
In each industry or economy, there are critical points in the talent value chain that provide an opportunity to make a long-term difference. For example, the transition from education to employment is often a make-or-break juncture in the lives of young people and a core determinant of the talent pipeline for many industries. Before designing an intervention, it is important to have a clear understanding of the full talent value chain and the impact a business wants to achieve.
- Be relevant to the context
Tailoring interventions to the local culture and socio-economic context and taking into account the specific needs of the target audience is critical to achieving sustainable results. For example, investment in vocational training programs is unlikely to be successful in cultures where there is a strong premium placed on university qualifications. In such a case, a combination of vocational and academic education with communication around the practical benefits of vocational training is critical to enhancing impact.
- Commit leadership to the cause
Support from leaders and managers is crucial to sustaining initiatives, engage partners, gain broader buy-in and mobilize employees. For example, initiatives that connect employees as mentors or lecturers to local entrepreneur hubs or universities need CEO communication, HR monitoring, and management support if they are to work.
- Design for the future
With ongoing technological and economic disruptions, jobs and skills interventions will only be successful if they are designed with a proactive, long-term approach rather than one that is reactive or based on past successes. For example, apprenticeship programs where young people are placed in traditional jobs seem pointless if those job categories are likely to be obsolete within five years. Instead, it might make more sense to create apprenticeship programs for new high-growth occupations.
- Leverage ICT
Using ICT offers a number of advantages when implementing jobs and skills initiatives. It can enhance impact, especially when on- and off-line elements are combined, and can increase scale by reaching a much larger and more diversified group of beneficiaries. For example, while networking events connecting aspiring start-ups with established entrepreneurs can have a positive impact on those able to connect physically, an online platform for knowledge-sharing and networking would have a wider reach. ICT can also significantly lower the costs of execution and delivery, allow for faster adaptation to geographic and socio-economic contexts, and help engage younger generations.
- Test first, scale second
Testing activities with a small group before rolling them out on a larger scale is helpful for anticipating potential problems and understanding what success looks like. Clear objectives and quantitative metrics must be defined by all involved parties and communicated clearly in the earliest phases. It is also important to collect qualitative feedback from all involved, including the beneficiaries. This helps draw lessons from the pilot phase and adapt the next steps as needed.
By embracing entrepreneurship, we are on the quest to defeating youth unemployment.