Young and restless



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When I came back to Nepal as a fresh management graduate, I was struck to see the impressive population of MBA graduates in this country - both foreign educated as well as those who had studied here. What impressed me even more was the intelligence, innovative ideas, knowledge and enthusiasm they had. Yet, they were forced to live more like cash strapped teenagers.

The youth in Nepal—the generation to which I belong as well—has constantly been disheartened by the state of the nation that has given them nothing but disappointment, instability and most importantly, an inefficient government and administration. All this has forced us to lead a life that we were least expecting.
One of my most talented and hardworking friends finished his MBA with top honours in 2008 from one of the most reputed Universities in the country, almost an equivalent of the Indians Institute of Managements (IIMs) in India. 

However, even four years after having passed out, he is being able to draw an average annual income just enough to sustain a comfortable but far from luxurious lifestyle, despite working over 10 hours a day. His hunt for a more rewarding job continues and behind his smiling face, I can see frustration and disillusionment. He had certainly visualized a far better life for himself when he graduated from his management class four years back.

My friend’s instance, however, is just the tip of the iceberg. The same story is echoed by thousands of youth in the country. The National Planning Commission Country report on Youth Unemployment states that there are 1.5 million people, mostly youth, who are totally unemployed whereas around 11 million (47 percent) are underemployed. Underemployment broadly refers to a situation where a person is employed but below his capacity. Every year, around 3,50,000-4,00,000 youth enter the job market in Nepal. However, only 10 percent are absorbed in the domestic market.

1.5 million Nepalis, most of them youth, are unemployed.

In the present scenario, especially with a majority of industries shutting down, it is the financial sector that makes up for most of the job market and hires people from across sections and for various posts, even those that do not require an MBA. However, to aspire to be a banker, one requires a Masters degree. All MBA graduates these days wait for these openings given they have no better option in the current market. 

Other than that, the development sector and donor agencies also provide attractive employment opportunities. However, most people who join this sector do so to earn big bucks and not really to improve the state of the country. But again, with most other job prospects looking bleak—both monetarily and otherwise, this option seems rather inviting.

The per capita income of Nepal is around $490. With the inflation hovering around 10 percent, the general standard of life is gradually deteriorating. This year’s World Development Report also puts Nepal in the bottom of the list, along with African nations. 

Unemployment, especially among the youth, is increasing around the world and Nepal is not the only example. An increasing population, coupled with rising expectations, adds to the problem. After having spent years as well as resources studying, the youth now does not want to work in farms or engage in jobs perceived to be menial, even if this means being unemployed.

It is not as if our country lacks opportunities. For example, tourism—one of our biggest sectors—can provide adequate employment opportunities, especially given the end of insurgency. Also, in a country desperately awaiting change, development projects like road construction, irrigation, hydropower and communication remain to be tapped for their employment potential. There can also be ample room for development of non-traditional sectors such as Information Technology, call centers etc. 

However, what unfortunately is also lacking is initiative from the youth. I have come across many people with very innovative and lucrative ideas. Yet, there is no initiative from their side. Perhaps, not without reason. Recently, I came across a report about Youth Survey of Nepal (from British Council), which states that 85.6 percent of the youth surveyed were interested in starting their own business. However, lack of capital, uncertain market, political instability and geographical barriers are some debilitating factors. 

Entrepreneurs are afraid and unwilling to operate in a lawless and unpredictable environment. There is also a lack of enabling policies that would help launch and sustain these businesses. This discourages investments that might otherwise really boost the economy. Nepal does not suffer from being resource poor, rather it suffers from poor management of these resources. It definitely lacks good and effective governance. If a nation is not strong on anti-corruption and government accountability, then it can never create systems that enable and encourage business initiatives and entrepreneurial skills to thrive.

(Source: Republica National Daily)