Pakistan is currently experiencing two trends; a youth bulge without productivity, and increasing digitization of the economy and society. The trends are anticipated to continue and accelerate in the years to come. The digitization of the economy has extensive potential to promote youth employment in the country. The COVID-19 pandemic shock reinforced the importance of digital skills for youth to have decent work opportunities.
As Pakistan currently has the youngest population in its history (65 percent of the total population is below the age of 30 while 29 percent is between the ages of 15 and 29 years) but a majority of them lack relevant and advanced skills to fulfill the demands of global markets. At the same time, the country has the largest number of freelancers, making it the top five countries in the world for providing freelancing services using digital mediums. It is obvious that digital skills can generate job opportunities for youth. In fact, the provision of digital skills to youth is more than a necessity than a choice.
National Rural Support Programme (NRSP) is playing its role and commitment to supporting digital skills for youth from underprivileged backgrounds in Pakistan. It is implementing the project ‘Revitalizing Youth Enterprise (RYE) through digital and life skills training’ funded by and part of the Citi Foundation flagship program ‘Pathways to Progress’ a job skills-building initiative that addresses the persistent, global issue of youth unemployment.
The project has supported 200 poor young boys and girls from underdeveloped areas of four cities districts including Karachi, Sukkur, Bahawalpur, and Multan, in developing relevant digital skills through a 3-month training in e-commerce, digital marketing, social media management, graphic designing, and life skills.
Here I present the success stories of two beneficiaries;
Mr. Muhammad Sheeraz Saeed is from Hasilpur, Punjab. After graduating from the Government College of Technology in Hasilpur, with a degree in civil engineering in 2019, he could not find a job. But an online learning training program has given him two “gifts”: digital and life skills.
Sheeraz was one of two hundred young boys and girls from underprivileged backgrounds who took part in three months long ‘Revitalizing Youth Enterprise (RYE) through digital and life skills training’. He was trained in digital marketing because he sees the significance of such skills in job markets. He said that the skills he acquired from the digital skills training project have made him more productive and relevant in the job market.
“When I saw this opportunity on Facebook, I jumped at it and applied. I was Never in my life would I have thought that I will have such an opportunity. For the first time in my life, I feel confident in myself. I can now work from the comfort of my home in the digital field without wasting time and money on transportation”.
After completing the training in Canva. Facebook, website development, and e-commerce, he made business accounts and gigs on Facebook, Instagram, and Fiverr. He is now looking for clients on these platforms.
For Sheeraz this is just one great step for his empowerment to become part of digital means of earning. He is confident about his success. He was also trained in life skills imperative for dealing with clients and achievement of his plans.
Ms. Zoofa Sajid is from Chak 143 Murad in Punjab. She has been in search of employment for a long time after graduation in commerce. Continuous rejections and sitting without work at home have disappointed her but she has never lost hope. She had found a job but was paid very less that was barely even enough for her transportation. She had heard about online earning but never gathered the confidence to step up due to a lack of reliable knowledge, guidance, and skills.
She got to know about ‘Revitalizing Youth Enterprise (RYE) through digital and life skills training’ through her village community organization which provided information and guidance about the training opportunity. When she was selected for the social media management and life skills course she was over the moon.
“It is an era of social media and digital marketing; such skills are required to remain relevant in the job market. I got three months of training on how to make, design, and edit social media posts and videos on canva, and how to get online work, especially on Fiverr.”
She had success with finding an international client who paid him in dollars. She thinks online work suits girls and women in Pakistan.
“I made my social media accounts and started earning during training. I developed ads and started a self-promotion campaign and found a client from the United States of America. I ran a campaign on Facebook for him and he got good results, he paid me $75 and since then I am working and trying to find more such opportunities. In the beginning, it was tough because I have never worked in such a way but when I understood the process then I am enjoying it. I believe freelancing and online earning are best for girls. Boys can go and work anywhere without any hurdle but there are a lot of sociocultural issues for girls working outside of their homes. They can easily earn while sitting in their homes.”
She is on a mission to inspire girls of her village to acquire digital skills to make themselves productive.
“I share my experiences with girls in my village and motivate them to digital skills to make themselves productive and have decent work. I cannot believe it when I got my first earnings of $75. Many people in my circle would say this is useless, how can one earn online and without investment? But when I told them about my earnings, they were also in disbelief but very happy.
The training has harnessed confidence and self-belief in her.
“I feel super confident about my skills and being independent I cannot explain my happiness. Now, I can plan, manage time and decide how to carry forward my work. I plan to increase my profile and get access to more clients in the future.”
The achievements of Sheeraz and Zoofa underpins the importance and inevitability of building a strong human capital through digital skills provision to millions youth in Pakistan who are deprived. They are the future of Pakistan and she can only compete and sustain in the global markets with the support of skilled youth. Therefore, public and private investments in such skills are must to put the country back on the path of development.