The Youth Employment Project: Strengthening gainful employment opportunities for youths in Nepal

According to Nepal’s Center Bureau of Statistics, 38.1% of job seekers were young people from 15 - 24 years in 2018. This was the biggest group of unemployed and was followed by that of those aged between 25 - 34 years, at 31.3%. With an incoming workforce of 400,000 youths every year, Nepal faces stiff challenges in getting their youth employed. 

Lack of jobs in formal sectors, poor working conditions, low pay etc. has meant that many of these youth choose to work abroad. While Nepal has become an economy which heavily and increasingly relies on remittance, the youth working abroad are also forced to work as unskilled labor and in difficult working conditions. Swisscontact has been implementing the Youth Employment Project (YEP) in Nepal since 2014. YEP is a skills and entrepreneurship development project that seeks to improve opportunities for disadvantaged youths who hope to obtain higher wages or self-employment in Nepal. YEP has three intervention areas: (a) Entrepreneurship Promotion, (b) Skills Development and (c) Skills Enhancement. The project provides, (a) access to basic skills training for demanded occupations alongside skills enhancement, (b) assessment of skills and certification, and (c) promotion of self-employment including access to finance by working with selected local partners. To date, YEP has provided skills training to 6,246 youths in Province 1 and 2, out of which 4,372 have successfully entered the local job market with gainful income.  Kumar Adhikari, a local resident of Biratnagar, trained under the cook occupation program in Biratnagar, one of the skills training centers of YEP. “I had always wanted to start my own business in Nepal. After I got tired from working hard for minimal gains in Saudi Arabia, I decided to come back and pursue my dream of owning a business. I bought a car and started giving taxi rides, but it didn’t benefit me in terms of income earned or growth. I was earning even less than when I was abroad. Financially strained, I didn’t think I could work in Nepal anymore and wanted to leave to work abroad again” shared Kumar, reminiscing his life before the training. When he was in the process to go abroad, his father-in-law told him about the skills training implemented by a local NGO, a YEP partner. He decided to take the General Cook training and even invited family friends.  Trainees like Kumar are offered training for occupations that cater towards demand of the local market. 400 YEP trainees have gone into skills training, within the tourism sector, for waitressing, general cook, fast food maker, hotelier and lodge operator. With a high demand for skilled workforce in the tourism sector, especially after the launch of the “Visit Nepal 2020” campaign, YEP constantly rolls out trainings to meet such demand. Today, 320 graduates work in the tourism sector with an average income of NPR.11,000. Alongside tourism, the construction sector in Nepal also has high demand for skilled workforce. 1,049 youths have completed the basic and advance training in construction through YEP and are currently working in occupations like junior plumber, masonry, furniture maker, plumbing, aluminum fabricator, and arc welder. After graduating from the program, Kumar along with a training mate opened a small restaurant. Initially, they had a hard time attracting customers but eventually, through word of mouth, they got their first batch of regular customers. Today, Kumar saves about NPR.30,000 per month. With the increased scope in tourism and hospitality industry in Nepal, he plans to invest the money to grow his business into a small hotel and also in taking an entrepreneurship related training. Majority of YEP graduates are self-employed and many express their interest in building their own business rather than working in wage employment. Identifying the need for entrepreneurship training, YEP adopted Entrepreneurship Promotion as one of its major intervention areas after Phase 1. Currently, YEP provides knowledge about entrepreneurship and financial literacy to young entrepreneurs and small and medium enterprises (SME), looking to streamline or scale their businesses. 400 youths have already been imparted with business skills that they utilize in their start-ups or existing businesses. To ensure that businesses have access to funds, to either launch or scale their business, YEP also links these entrepreneurs with financial institutions. Furthermore, trainees with high potential enterprises, are linked with the district chapters of small cottage industry where they receive cash support to fulfill their financial needs. Khagendra Adhikari was a recipient of Enterprise Promotion Training (EPT) in Biratnagar. Khagendra wanted to open his own poultry farm after being stressed out from working for wages. He had a basic hunch on what he wanted to do but he did not know where to begin. After hearing about EPT from local media outlet, he went for the EPT and graduated after a few months. After EPT, he started his farm by taking up a loan from a recommended bank and purchased a hatchery machine. Now, he has taken up partners and has branched out to Turkey and Giriraj (a certain type of chicken) farming. He has employed three families to look after three farms locations. His income also increased from NPR.16,000, as a salaryman, to NPR.60,000 per month. His future plan involves expanding his business and maybe starting a cooperative.