Your excellences Minister Kudbiev and Ambassador Tyurdenev,

Distinguished participants and media representatives,

I am delighted to welcome you to the official launch ceremony of the joint project of UNDP and the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations - “Promoting Youth Employment in Uzbekistan”.

Creation of productive employment and, in particular youth employment, remains a global challenge and a top policy concern for many countries in the world.

Goal 8 of the Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the UN member states calls for sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all, for young people.

One of the targets aims at reducing the proportion of youth not in employment, education or training by 2020.

By nationalizing the global Goals in 2018, the Government of Uzbekistan reaffirmed its commitment to the creation of decent jobs for all, including for youth and women.

The Government has been working to address the issue of employment generation through a number of economic policies aimed at expanding SMEs, private sector and entrepreneurship.

Enhancement of active labour market policies by the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations, establishment of the Fund for public works, and the fund “Youth is our Future”, and the roll-out of the national program “Each family is an entrepreneur”, are notable initiatives that aim to address the youth employment in the country.

Ladies and gentlemen,

UNDP’s experience across the countries of Europe and Central Asia shows that labour markets in the region have certain commonalities.

For example:

• As of 2018, women’s labour force participation rate (50.6%) lags behind men’s (66.5%) in the region. The lack of soft-skills, job-specific skills and sectoral employment segregation are some of the factors that perpetuate the gender gap.

• Roughly half of the working age population is inactive, which is also due, among other things, to the low level of women in employment.

• Finding a job after graduation remains a major challenge for young people. Schools are not providing students with the skills that modern labour markets require.

• Lack of access to quality jobs has been the main “push-factor” for the labour migration flows from the Western Balkans and Central Asia countries to the EU and Russia respectively.

The issue of youth and women unemployment is particularly relevant for Uzbekistan where two thirds of the population are young people under 30 and where around 600 thousand graduates enter the labour force every year.

According to a UNDP study, unemployment in Uzbekistan is particularly pervasive in rural areas and especially among women and youth.

At the same time, Uzbekistan has an opportunity to realize its demographic dividend and reach the economic growth potential that it promises. And to achieve this, the right set of economic and governance policies are needed.

I am very pleased to note that UNDP has had excellent cooperation with the Government of Uzbekistan on the implementation of concrete initiatives aimed at private sector development, promotion of trade and investments and rural development, all of which had an ultimate objective of enhancing employment opportunities in the country.

These include our collaboration on enabling the business environment, promotion of inclusive business projects in the Aral Sea region and Ferghana Valley, youth startup support programme and others.

UNDP remains strongly committed to expanding this partnership with the Government to create new jobs, start-ups and inclusive businesses, empower women and youth, and to create a more diversified economy that will benefit everyone.

As a testament to this commitment, we are pleased today to participate in this launch ceremony of our joint collaboration with the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations under the ‘Promoting youth employment in Uzbekistan’ project.

I also want to seize this opportunity to thank Ambassador Tyurdenev and the UNDP-Russia Trust Fund for providing the funding to this project which allows UNDP to support the Ministry in a number of areas:

• improving their own capacities and those of employment support centers in delivering services to youth and women in particular;

• promoting youth and women entrepreneurship skills and startups;

• promoting youth employment through active labour market policies.

I would like to highlight that UNDP has solid experience working with governments across the world in designing and supporting active labour market measures. We are also working together with other UN Agencies such as the ILO as well as IFIs to promote integrated support.

I am confident that through sound partnerships and collaboration the project will bring transformative impact on improving youth and women employment in the country.

In closing, I would like to once again thank our partners, the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations, the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Uzbekistan and all other partners.

Thank you.

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