Report: Youth Employment Issues in APO Economies Workshop, August 2-6, 2015, Iran

Group photo of participants

Group photo of participants

The Asia-Pacific region accounts for 45% of the world’s youth, defined by the UN as those aged 15-24 years. There are insufficient formal-sector jobs to absorb young job seekers in the region hence, the majority of the young work in the informal economy characterized by low levels of skills and productivity, low or irregular incomes, long working hours, small or undefined workplaces, unsafe and unhealthy working conditions, and lack of access to information, markets, finance, training, and technology. While many governments are committed to addressing these problems through public policies and programs, only a few specific issues have been addressed so far. If unchecked, the increased vulnerability of young employees will result in seriously negative effects on economic growth and productivity.

In 2014, the APO organized a workshop on the Impact of Changing Demographics on Productivity. Through the said workshop, updates on the labor participation situation in member countries were provided, in which youth employment arose as one major issue impacting labor productivity during that time. As a result of the said workshop , the Workshop on Youth Employment Issues in APO Economies  will be a good opportunity to share youth employment trends and challenges facing productivity in a broad range of member countries. Measures to tackle those issues; current policies to deal with youth employment problems are expected to be discussed.

Issues/Problems:

1. Insufficient formal-sector jobs to absorb the growing number of young job seekers in the Region;
2. Youth employment is generally seen in  the informal economy characterized by low levels of skill and productivity, low or irregular incomes, long working hours, small or undefined workplaces, unsafe and unhealthy working conditions and lack of access to information, markets, finance, training, and technology; and
3. The increasing vulnerability of young workers  is seen to result to negative impact on the regional economic growth and productivity.

OBJECTIVES

1. To update the trends and status of youth employment in APO economies;
2. To examine the challenges facing labor productivity arising from youth employment issues;
3. To share existing policies and national programs to resolve youth employment issues; and
4. To come up with recommendations to improve youth labor productivity.

OBJECTIVES FOR PARTICIPATION

TESDA as a government agency mandated to manage and supervise technical education and skills development (TESD) in the Philippines and as one of the  direct implementers  of this mandate finds the objective of the workshop on Youth Employment Issues in APO Economies as very relevant and timely as unemployment concerns among the youth in the Philippines cannot be ignored because of its growing magnitude.

Skills gap, or the mismatch between labor demand and supply, is seen as among the primary reasons for the high youth unemployment in the country add to this is the seeming “unwillingness”  of some  private companies to partner with institutions providing skills training to better prepare their “would-be-workers”.

Given these current scenario, the workshop is seen as an avenue where the Philippine representative together with the other APO member countries can further study and surface issues that hinders labor productivity / employment among the youth.

It also expected that policies and programs to minimize if not totally eliminate biases that lead to youth unemployment will be discussed and shared by and among APO member countries and that recommendations be formulated to improve youth productivity.

PROFILE OF PARTICIPANTS

A total of twenty two (22) participants from twelve (12) countries including two ( 2) delegates from the Philippines attended the Workshop on Youth Employment Issues in APO Economies in Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran from August 02 – 05, 2015.

Participants from the Philippines both came from the government sector specifically from the Department of Labor and Employment – Region VI, represented by a Regional Director and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority – Region III, represented by a Director III.

SCOPE, CONTENT AND METHODOLOGY

Scope & Content

The workshop covered the following topics :

• Dr. Akira Murata, Research Fellow, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Research Institute

– Youth Employment and Challenges Facing Youth
– Initiatives for Youth Employment Issues – An Approach of Japanese Government Policies

– Highlights :

In the global economies, there is a serious competition to attract talented youth. With regional integration (e.g. ASEAN Economic Community), each country needs to be competitive in terms of youth employment opportunities.

Policies as well as programs  such as the following is seen as a strategy/ies  that will make local job opportunities more attractive to the youth and to keep them within the country to contribute to its economic development :

1. Facilitate Trade and Investment Activities (e.g. Special Economic Zone in Cambodia, Bangladesh)
2. Support Small & Medium Enterprises (SMEs) (e.g. KAIZEN: quality and productivity improvement)
3. Support Local Industries & Local Development (e.g. One Village One Product movement, “Local but Global”)
4. Develop tourism based on the needs of country and local community

• Mr. Wong Tuck Wah, Associate Faculty, SIM University Singapore

– Tackling Youth Employment Challenges Through Government Policies and National Programs
– Addressing Youth Challenges – A Case of Singapore

– Highlights:

Discussion on ILO’s response to the youth employment crisis: The 2012 ILO Resolution “The Youth Employment Crisis: A call for action” which focuses on five policy areas:

1. Employment and economic policies to increase aggregate demand and improve access to finance;
2. Education and training to ease the school-to-work transition;
3. Labour market policies to target employment of disadvantaged youth;
4. Entrepreneurship and self-employment to assist potential young entrepreneurs; and
5. Labour rights that are based on international labor standards to ensure that young people receive equal treatment.

Methodology

Topics during the workshop were done through the following:

– Presentation of Youth Employment Issues by the Resource Speakers
– Presentation of country papers on the Status and Trends of Youth Employment by the participants of the APO member countries
– Group discussions after every presentation made by both resource speakers and participants
– Site visit to a private firm employing local youth
– Group work under the guidance of the experts

Highlights of Country Papers

Presentations of the participants from the other APO member countries during the workshop as well as from the Philippines showed almost similar issues/reasons on high unemployment of youth aged 15-24 to wit:

1. Lack of competency of the applicants due no formal training, insufficient knowledge and skills; skills mismatch
2. Expectation of high salary – upon knowing the low salary offer would opt to look other for other local  or overseas
3. Lack of years of experience – first time job seekers or fresh graduates
4. Lack of applicants for the vacancy post – hard to fill or jobs with high demands but  the applicants cannot meet the criteria.
5. Location/work schedule – works far from family and friends, night work schedule; geographical mismatch
6. Lack of license/certification – professional job requiring license or national certificates.
7. Preference to work abroad – better work pay lures many of the professionals to work overseas.

OUTCOMES AND EVALUATION

The in-depth knowledge and expertise of the resource persons pertaining youth unemployment and the dynamic inter-actions between and among the participants and resource persons facilitated my learnings and provided the me a deeper appreciation on the extent  of the issues and concerns not only in the Philippines but also in APO member countries.

Skills gap, or the mismatch between labor demand and supply, is seen as among the primary reasons for the high youth unemployment in the country add to this is the seeming “unwillingness”  of some  private companies to partner with institutions providing skills training to better prepare their “would-be-workers.

As one of the direct implementers of programs that support skill acquisition which was identified as one major concerns in youth employment provided me insights on how make TESDA and its programs more relevant  in providing young  manpower the right knowledge and skills to fill in the required jobs especially those identified as in-demand but hard to fill jobs thus minimizing the high unemployment among the youth in the country.

RECOMMENDATIONS AND ACTION STEPS

Given the issues/reasons cited by almost all the participants in the workshop the following recommendations are made to minimize the level of unemployment among the youth:

1. Establish /strengthen existing information network by enhancing cooperation between and among industry and training providers to ensure fit between the skills required by the industry and the graduates produced by training institutions*
2. Establishment of Job Opportunities and Youth Labor Market Information (LMI) Network of APO member countries
3. Inclusion of entrepreneurship in all programs of University and TVET institutions as well as encourage and strengthen support to youth entrepreneurial endeavor through provision of: a) access to financing; b) technical assistance;
4. Sustained career guidance advocacy
5. Evaluation of existing programs geared towards / supportive of youth employment for enhancement if found not meeting objective
6. Continuous review of policies on employment

* To be implemented through the conduct of Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Forum/Dialogue between industry and TVET providers

SUBMITTED BY

BELINDA A. LABUTONG
Director III
TESDA Pampanga Provincial Office

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