Committing to Youth Skills Development in South Asia

South Asia is home to the largest number of youth in the world with almost half of its population of 1.8 billion below the age of 24. The future of work is more unpredictable due to increased automation, artificial intelligence, and other dynamics driving the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The new 2030 Skills Scorecard: South Asia Edition from the Global Business Coalition for Education and the Education Commission shows that only 46% of young people in South Asia will have the most basic skills necessary for the workforce in 2030.

To address this skills crisis in the region, GBC-Education partnered with UNICEF Regional Office of South Asia and Generation Unlimited to host the South Asia Youth Skills and Solutions Forum in Mumbai, India. Forum participants included government representatives from throughout South Asia, global and regional businesses, small and medium-sized enterprises, development partners, and youth leaders and entrepreneurs — all working towards youth skill development in the region.

The forum began with opening remarks from experts in education and youth, including Dr. K P Krishnan, Secretary, Ministry of Skills Development & Entrepreneurship, India, and Henrietta H. Fore, Executive Director, UNICEF. Both expressed the urgent need for business and government in the region to work together to build a workforce ready for the future and the importance of greater integration between the skilling ecosystem and education systems in South Asia.

The forum continued with several exciting panel discussions, presentations, and workshops all aiming to reimagine opportunities to scale up-skilling solutions in the region and catalyze youth employment potential in emerging industries of South Asia. Business leaders – including Karthik Krishnan, Global CEO, Britannica Group, Tendai Mashingaidze, CEO, Econet Education, Shweta Khurana, Director of Programs, Partnerships and Policy, Intel India, Anita Rajan, Chief Executive Officer, TATA Strive, David Hollands, Education Strategy Manager, HP Asia Pacific & Japan, and many others – provided evidence, solutions, and perspectives that challenged and inspired other businesses to listen to and support the young people that they will employ in the future.

Throughout the forum, the most important voices were from the youth participants. Young leaders, entrepreneurs, and advocates emphasized the barriers toward education, skills development, and employment opportunities in their countries and called upon decision-makers from governments, business, and international organizations to take action. 


Commitments Made

During the final session, participants were asked to make commitments to “re-align, re-think, and re-imagine new partnerships, policies, and programs” that will go beyond the forum and into the next stages of skills development in South Asia. Here are several highlights of these commitments: 


  • Maldives committed to implement a National Apprenticeship Program this year with state-owned enterprises and private employers to engage with an apprenticeship program.


  • Britannica committed to creating career profiles, including videos with people currently in those careers highlighting the skills needed and the path one could take. The company will also complement its current internship program with mass mentoring.
  • HP invited participants to help them realize their goal of improving the learning outcomes for 100 million by 2025 with greater collaboration and helping convene and support greater alignment for policy transformation.


  • Visionary Fighters committed to reach out to 1 million undergraduate youth before 2024 to help them realize their untapped potential.
  • Two of Theirworld’s Global Youth Ambassadors from India committed to helping youth make cognizant choices when choosing a career track by creating a new career pathway tool and resource.
  • Pravah & Community: the Youth Collective committed to designing an impactful South Asia youth exchange.

GBC-Education, UNICEF, Generation Unlimited

  • The Global Business Coalition for Education committed to generate new tools and resources to increase business engagement in skills development in South Asia.
  • Theirworld committed to supporting and training a cohort of South Asian Global Youth Ambassadors to become stronger advocates for youth skills in the region.
  • UNICEF committed to sustain a Secretariat to follow up on the Forum to link people together, share resources, and facilitate meetings.
  • Generation Unlimited is committed to work with UNICEF and GBC-Education to provide catalytic technical and financial support to advance youth skills solutions across South Asia. 

 Everyone has a role to play – business, government, and young people – if we are to deliver the 2030 Agenda, in particular Goal 4 on equitable and inclusive quality education and lifelong learning for all, Goal 5 on gender equality, and Goal 8 on decent work and economic growth.

Photography credit: UNICEF Regional Office of South Asia

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