Case Holders:
Michela Albertazzi & Carlo Maria Delù

Developing the institutional capacity of ILO constituents to implement policy: the case of MoLSAMD

Promotion of Youth Employment in Fragile Settings

Background & Context

Afghanistan is located at the crossroads of central, south and west Asia, and is of significant geo-strategic importance. However, this has made the country a victim of war and instability for more than 30 years, and has impeded development of the Afghan economy and of improvements in its people’s livelihoods.

Four decades of political instability, violent conflict, and socioeconomic crisis have had a devastating impact on the wellbeing of Afghan men, women and children and rendered Afghanistan a Fragile State. Afghanistan ranked 169th out of 188 countries in the 2016 Human Development Report, with the labour market presenting the typical features of a less developed economy, and 90% of jobs classified as vulnerable.Young people are those most affected by the situation, and the “youth bulge” is affecting levels of unemployment and underemployment.

 In this context young people cannot meet family expectations, and the perceived sense of injustice can be an avenue for extremist movements.

Emergence from fragility for Afghanistan is dependent on short-, medium- and long- term strategies. In essence the effectiveness of engagement with the world’s fragile and conflict-affected States depends not only on the processing of increasing data but also on the adoption of strategies which can adapt in real time to changing contextual realities. One of these strategies is enabling young citizens, through decent work and purpose, to engage meaningfully in their country’s civic and economic affairs and not seek recourse to violent extremism.

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The Problem

Afghanistan’s population is very young, with 41% of the population aged under 14, and another 22.5% aged 15-24, making up a total of 7.5 million young people of employable age out of a total working-age population of 15 million. Only 8.5 million people participate in the labour force 22.2% of them are unemployed

According to a 2011 labour market survey, every year in Afghanistan more than 400,000 young women and men newly enter the labour market in search of work, far outpacing labour demand in the economy. Another bottleneck is the poor employability of many young people due to a lack of vocational and technical skills and work experience. As a direct consequence many young people end up unemployed or underemployed.

The local institutional environment to facilitate the school-to-work transition of young women and men is only slowly evolving. The Afghan Ministry of Education estimates that 3.3 million out of a total school-age population of 10.3 million are still out of school. The number of students in universities, governmental institutes, and private higher education institutes was reported to be 200,000 in 2013 – one of the world’s lowest.

Entrepreneurship education is not systematically embedded in school curricula, and is largely left to non-governmental organizations and, sometimes, business associations.

Vocational skills training is provided for 81,812 students (20 per cent female), and another estimated 600,000 young people are trained by way of informal or traditional apprenticeship schemes in small businesses; most are men, given the cultural factors limiting the mobility and occupational choices of women.

The main problems identified are a lack of entrepreneurship education in the school system as well as a deficit in the vocational skills sector which seems unable to cope with market demands.

Objective

The objective of the project is to strengthen the institutional capacity of Afghanistan’s Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs, Martyrs and Disabled (MoLSAMD) to tackle the youth employment promotion challenge through adjustment of existing employment promotion policies and programmes to reflect global good practice in countries affected by fragility.

The training is geared to helping participants acquire the following:

  • knowledge of key concepts relating to employment policy with emphasis on situations of fragility;
  • the capacity to participate actively in the process of formulating gender-sensitive employment policies;
  • the capacity to implement employment policies through action planning;  and
  • the capacity to advocate and coordinate integration of employment policies with development interventions.

In addition participants are encouraged to apply their acquired knowledge and skills in group work aimed at developing customized employment projects as a means of moving from fragility to resilience.

The programme is targeted on staff members of MoLSAMD, but also involves representatives of employers’ and workers’ organizations with the aim of building partnerships and favouring the elaboration of tripartite employment policies.

The rationale of the programme is not only to train the individual participants but also to empower them to share their newly-acquired knowledge within the ministry or partner organization, thus maximizing the capacity-building potential of the training activity.

Value Proposition & Activities

The aim of this assignment was to develop the capacity of MoLSAMD, as well as other ILO constituents, so that they can design employment policies that better tackle the youth unemployment problem in Afghanistan. The training programme was designed after thorough consultations with representatives of MoLSAMD, and is made up of eight one-week training courses delivered over a nine-month period, and covering the following themes:

1.  Economy and Labour

2.  Labour Market Analysis and Employment Policies

3.  Youth Employment: From Policy to Action

4.  Entrepreneurship

5.  Migration and Employment

6.  Skills and Employability

7.  Gender and Labour towards Empowering Women in Fragile
States

8.  From Design to Implementation: Institutions for Employment
Policies

At the present time the first seven courses have been delivered with the eighth and final one scheduled for the end of October. This is to be seen as a true learning journey, involving the same participants in all the training events, which are delivered in New Delhi, India, or Kabul, Afghanistan. During the periods between training events participants access the online platform to complete the distance-learning components, consisting mostly of pre- and post-training quizzes, as well as additional reading to be completed between the training sessions. Participants in the training programme are asked to develop group project proposals that allow them to link the policy knowledge acquired during the training to the potential for practical action in their areas of interest. The programme is implemented under an innovative South-South cooperation mechanism, which involves the VV Giri National Labour Institute of India, thus …

Learning & results

Although the programme is still ongoing, preliminary feedback on the part of participants has been extremely positive and generally above the benchmark set by ITC-ILO for its training activities. Participants have especially appreciated the opportunities afforded through travelling to India for some of their training. The use of study visits exposes them to available best practices in their region.

The blended structure of the programme allows participants to access course presentations and handouts, further reading materials, along with quizzes and exercises at any time and from any source.

The tripartite composition of the participants’ group contributes to the development not only of the organizational capacity of the ministry, but also its institutional capacity aimed at an ability to interface better with other social partners.

The expectation and hope is that course participants can become leaders in their organizations and will be able to share their experience and knowledge with their colleagues.

Complexities of working in a fragile setting

The security situation has been a main challenge both in the design and implementation of the training programme. The current environment in Afghanistan makes it difficult to attract foreign lecturers, trainers and experts: for this reason some of the training had to be carried out in New Delhi, India. Although this is an opportunity for knowledge-sharing and south-south cooperation, it also puts a considerable strain on administrative staff, as it involves organizing travel and accommodation for participants in New Delhi about once per month.

The ever-changing political environment in the country, moreover, makes it difficult to maintain a stable dialogue with the partner organizations, as leadership changes are frequent.

Working in a fragile context, however, has proven a great opportunity for developing a training package on employment policies that takes into account the specificities of fragile settings, and could easily be adapted to other post-conflict and post-disaster contexts.

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Conclusion & the future variation

The training programme is proving successful, as it allows constituents to develop both their internal organizational capacity and their external institutional capacities. Through the course participants have been exposed to a mix of hard facts, theoretical knowledge, practical experience, and useful project development and management methodologies. The level of some of the participants is sufficiently high that, if given appropriate training in teaching and facilitation methodologies, they could be able to become trainers in future local language versions of the programme.

Furthermore, the full training package for the programme is currently being compiled and consolidated, thus increasing the possibility of replicating the experience in other countries and fragility-affected contexts.

Some possible future adjustments and changes to the programme can be however pointed out, such as:

  • better integration between the online and face-to-face components of the training, to include more participatory exercises online;
  • improved interface between the project development assignments and the other topics touched on by the training course.