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Ideas on improving types of jobs for workers, while allowing flexibility for employers

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Ideas on improving types of jobs for workers, while allowing flexibility for employers

Posted by arun kumar at November 27. 2009

Dear Colleagues,

Thanks to Gianni, we have some concrete info on what governments (mostly non Asian) are doing to promote youth employment in these times of economic crisis (see Gianni’s  post and the attachment: ).  One thing is certain - severity of the crisis has forced some governments to devote additional resources towards youth training & employment schemes. But is this going to solve the problem? What do you people think?

To me, it seems that what the governments are really trying to do here is -

  1. Give money (or tax breaks) to the companies to either employ youth or keep them in jobs - how long this can be continued, will depend on the pockets of the governments but it does some one purpose - protects the government from criticism that it is doing nothing.
  2. Keep youth in training with some allowances in some countries - at least this helps to keep the young off the job market and officially not counted among the unemployed.

So.... after the short run, the problem will re-emerge.

Really, youth unemployment and decent work deficits in the employment market are not specific to youth but part of the general labour market scenario - economies are not generating adequate jobs and dominant economic labour policies are such as to keep increasing the insecurity and precariousness of jobs (deregulation of the economies, of labour markets, no respect for right to organize or collective bargaining, no consensus on universal social security and this misplaced acceptance of ' markets know the best' philosophy). Against this background, frankly young people (atleast the majority of them) can forget about getting decent jobs.

Most new employment that the economies are creating are – contractual, short term, temporary, casual or in ways where the employer-employee relationship is being disguised as client-supplier relationship – where employment is offered not as ‘appointment’ but as ‘assignment’. This means that the employer treats the employee as if he is supplier of his services or doer of a work as a contractor rather than a worker – this enables employers to deny rights which are associated with employment as an employee. Most of the new employment is of this nature and to the extent that youth get the jobs, they get these kind of jobs.

So, what should be done  to improve these kind of jobs (from workers point of view) while allowing the flexibility that the employers desire so much? any bright ideas? anyone?

best wishes

Re: Ideas on improving types of jobs for workers, while allowing flexibility for employers

Posted by Khairil Yusof at November 27. 2009

Dear Arun,

I see that not all the new types of employment are of this nature. Jobs are even more varied and a lot of youths are multi-skilled. I also find that the problems and solutions vary from sector to sector.

The barrier I often see in my sector (IT) to good jobs (as in secure, fair wages) not being available to the right people is partially due to the fact that employers find it harder to hire the right people. At least I find that it follows closely the costs of asymmetric information ( In other words, because employers cannot easily differentiate between good and bad workers, they are unwilling to bear the high costs of hiring the wrong employee with better wages and conditions. As a result, the entry level pay for skilled IT graduates is much lower than the actual value. So we have a lot entry level job openings in IT, with low wages.

In health sector, the availability of good public hospitals, with low wages, pushes the wage down for health workers. Why would you want to be trained for 6 months to be radiologist at training wages, when you could be earning higher wage for those same six months selling pre-paid mobile phone cards on a short term contract? You get good job benefits, because the competition is public hospital positions  with government benefits.  Of course you could increase the wages for public health sector, and possibly increase health costs, but that's another matter.

The service (tourism/food&beverage) sector however is doing well,  on the job training, job security/benefits and good pay.

The situations for each of these example sectors are likely to change even in a few years, and you may end up having needing to be retrained and possibly changing jobs.

The solutions I propose are:

  • Identification and focus on basic skills that are valued across industries and within a company:
    • In probably all developing countries, having good English, and being able to communicate well, provides you with a lot of opportunities.
    • Basic IT skills, especially in software applications, that can be applied to a variety of tasks and jobs. eg. spreadsheets
    • Management skills
  • Career and financial counseling to youth, updated to current market realities
    • Financial counseling, eg. you need to start trying to build a 6 months salary savings buffer as soon as you start working. Savings empowers you to get out of a bad situation and also buys you time, to consider career options/training in a flexible market.
    • Career counseling. Too many private educational institutions are always painting a rosy picture. "Sign up with our course, and you will get exciting jobs!". I've met a lot of youths, who wished they had a better understanding of the current job market and had more time to prepare. As early as possible not the year before graduation (from any level of education)

Of course some of these only probably only applies to fast growing economies of ASEAN. Savings is a pipe dream, if you're the main breadwinner in a large family and have to support your parents and siblings as soon as you start working.


I'm quite interested to hear more from youths, from other countries.

Re: Ideas on improving types of jobs for workers, while allowing flexibility for employers

Posted by arun kumar at November 27. 2009

Thanks Yusof for your thoughts and ideas - certainly schools should be teaching all young people the skills you mention (IT skills, management skills, financial wisdom and guidance) and surely, there is a need for everyone to be multi skilled - the job market is such that no one is likely to continue in one single job for the rest of his or her life. So, how does one go about doing this? perhaps middle class families can look after their children's needs but what about the poor?  So, this means that Govt needs to invest in improving & expanding public education and training systems - what can be done to force the govts to spend more on education?

But one more thought comes into mind : improving employability of youth is a fine thing but basic question stays: are there jobs out there in the market?

IT is a growing sector and there are jobs in this sector - what are the other growing sectors?

And, how do we make sure that countries  (and employers) respect basic standards at work? how do we ensure employees right to decent pay, to safe & healthy workign conditions, to be represented thru their organization? to some basic social security? 

best wishes




Re: Ideas on improving types of jobs for workers, while allowing flexibility for employers

Posted by Shaun Kennedy at November 30. 2009

Greetings from the Pacific Island country of Vanuatu. My name is Shaun Kennedy and I am the programme coordinator  in Vanuatu for the ILO Pacific Youth Employment programme entitled 'Education, Employability and Decent Work for Youth in Pacific Island Countries'.

Pacific Island Countries, including Vanuatu, will have a very different labour market scenario than some more 'advanced' economies of our Asian neighbours. In Vanuatu, the formal private sector employment is very small and is dominated by the tourism industry  and to a lesser extent construction. Both sectors are dominiated by foreign owners / managers and are staffed by local employees.

In my observation, the rural economy has the biggest potential for job creation and income earning. The rural areas are were our resources are. Our people are expert farmers and many of them live their life with very little dependency on paper money. They are wealthy in terms of strong communities, with valuable assets like land, livestock, fruits and vegetables.

The problem arises when their is a need for paper money for school fees, health costs, transporting goods to market etc. Most of our rural economy is at the subsistence level, and there are many obstacles for rural people trying to convert their farm products into paper money.

I agree with Yusuf on an urgent need for more comprehensive options for career counselling. Young people should be encouraged to embrace the opportunities available in the rural economy instead of dreaming only to get a job in the city .

Too often the economic opportunities are exploited by the foreign investor / speculator and local people provide the labour. Sometimes the labour force is treated well and sometimes it isn't. Also - it is not always the foreign people who are guilty of exploiting and mis-treating the local labour force.  

I believe incorporating education on rurally based small enterprise creation into the curriculum may be a step in the right direction. The Govt must provide the enabling environment including access to financial services. Easier said than done but some efforts in this direction are being made by our government, with a new Agricultural Bank and a new Agricultural College. Our private National Bank, with help from ADB, is also driving to increase access to financial services for rural people.     

In Vanuatu, I think the default position for local people is to put people ahead of profit. These values are eroded by exposure to the worst elements of Western culture, such as greed and individualism.

The challenge is how to blend the traditional positive social values with the need for paper money. Financial service providers could lead by example by incorporating social criteria into their lending conditions? Too subjective? Governments, who regulate the financial service sector and the business environment, could impose some legislation to promote social values? Does Bhutan do something like this? Too much government regulation stifling business?

I haven't really answered the discussion starter on 'improving types of jobs' - but I believe a greater focus on the rural economy, or incentives for social or 'green jobs' such as waste recycling, solar energy etc may be a possible starting point?


Re: Ideas on improving types of jobs for workers, while allowing flexibility for employers

Posted by Lawrence Ong at December 04. 2009

I think everyone has to be fluent in at least two languages to increase his or her employment opportunities.  In Asia, for example, many young people in countries such as Japan, Korea, Thailand, Indonesia, and China can usually only speak their own native language.  This, I think, is hurting their opportunities to grow their careers and/or work overseas.  It's all right, I guess, if your native language is one of the world's major languages (politically or economically) like English or Japanese, or is one of the fastest growing, like Chinese.  But if you can only speak Bahasa Indonesia or Thai or Lao or Khmer, or only knows English or one of the languages that have lost their shine, like French, in my opinion, you'd better get your act together fast.

Re: Ideas on improving types of jobs for workers, while allowing flexibility for employers

Posted by Manzoor Khaliq at December 04. 2009

Hi colleagues,

First of all, there is a need to create jobs and then see if these fall in the category of decent. What could be done to improve the employability of adequately educated as well as less educated youth. For the former, there is a one-year national apprenticeship programme for the fresh graduates who are placed in different government ministries/departments for one year to give them an opportunity and experience to be able to find good jobs afterwards. Whereas for the later, there are some examples in the region including the National Employment Gaurentee Schemes in India and the recent Income Support Programme for unemployed youth in Pakistan. For the time being, these programmes seem to successful however it needs to be re-visited after some time as these are hugely capital intensive programmes.

Re: Ideas on improving types of jobs for workers, while allowing flexibility for employers

Posted by Rosas Gianni at December 05. 2009

Dear Manzoor,

Nice to read from you, after so many years.

I agree with you that youth employment programmes should be subject to rigorous evaluation to see whether they pass the efficiency test. National programmes should be pilot tested, evaluated and then brought to scale.

I do not think that quantity and quality of jobs are mutually exclusive: they can go in tandem to the benefit of workers, enterprises and the society at large.


Re: Ideas on improving types of jobs for workers, while allowing flexibility for employers

Posted by arun kumar at December 06. 2009

dear Manzoor,

yes, its true the economy needs to create jobs - and if you look at India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Indonesia (and a whole host of such developing countries), these economies do create jobs but they are mostly in informal economy and at subsistance level. So, if the level of ambition of the country is that its people should survive, then its alright, we do not have to pay much attention to creating decent jobs, otherwise, I would tend to agree with Gianni <I do not think that quantity and quality of jobs are mutually exclusive: they can go in tandem to the benefit of workers, enterprises and the society at large>. In fact, if the aim is to remove poverty, promote development that gives people a chance to give better future to their children, then we need to focus on creating 'decent jobs' - and this means - living wages, social security, and respect for some core rights of workers in the society - this is what should characterise every job - this is the minimum requirements for decent work.

the problem is - everyone says we need to create jobs, but then our policies (national and international regarding trade, investment and growth) are such as to destroy jobs mostly.

best wishes


Re: Ideas on improving types of jobs for workers, while allowing flexibility for employers

Posted by Henrik Vistisen at December 06. 2009

Dear Arun, Khairil, Shaun, Lawrence, Manzoor, Gianni and all

Career guidance, life skills incl. home economics & business English for the world of work

Thanks for a range of interesting and thought provoking interventions on these issues.

As for career guidance I agree that this kind of intervention of course does not generate employment as such. However, this intervention – like all employment services – does promote employment. In Sri Lanka, we have learned that many line ministries, labour market actors and labour market service providers are engaged in this. However, we have also seen that these interventions could be further enhanced through a) better coordination of the interventions and b) a more harmonized guidance package for young women and men. Consequently, the Youth Employment Project (ILO/Japan) has picked up the challenge to 1) produce a harmonized desk manual for career guidance officers in Sri Lanka, 2) produce an easy read youth friendly booklet on career guidance for individual youth and 3) set-up and support a network of career guidance officers in one province.

As for life skills incl. home economics, this appears important in the local setting – especially for vulnerable youth from the plantation sector. Interventions, advocacy and assistance on savings and good home economics (as mentioned by Khairil) seem to be key. Consequently, the project produces a “life skills for school to work transition for plantation youth” consisting of a) a resource manual and b) training outreach to the plantation sector on same.

As for English and language skills, the project has learned that Tamil speaking plantation youth could benefit from both a) business English for the world of work, b) access to training institutions where Tamil is more widely spoken, and/or c) stronger Sinhalese language skills. So far the project has chosen to boost business English for school to work transition and the world of work. On this specific initiative, you might wish to read more here:

Best regards, Henrik in Sri Lanka


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