ISLAMABAD: Pakistan needs to create between 15 and 20 million jobs over the next 20 years which can only be achieved by adopting out of the box approaches such as developing social enterprises so young people can generate jobs instead of looking for them, the Federal Minister for Planning and Development Prof Ahsan Iqbal said on Wednesday.

He was speaking at a ‘Policy Symposium on Social Enterprises’ jointly hosted by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) and the British Council.

The minister said that there is potential for

growth in the country’s social enterprise sector in areas like sustainable resource mobilisation, food production, the recycling industry, the education and health sectors, infrastructural development, design arts, heritage, tourism and sport.

“We need to reduce the cost of starting up such businesses and we need an active civil society and private sector to provide ideas to our youth and to provide them with opportunities to start up such enterprises,” he said.

The minister added: “Instead of looking for foreign aid, we need to encourage people to start their businesses and this will address our social problems, empower communities and contribute towards the economy”.

Instead of giving vague recommendations, the minister advised the organisers to give clear suggestions to the government.

Chairperson Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) Marvi Memon said BISP helps the 2.5 million women who are among the poorest in the country.

She said young people should come up with innovative business plans and that the government will help young social entrepreneurs in every way.

Deputy Country Director British Council Pakistan, Jim Booth, told those attending that social enterprise is a relatively new concept in Pakistan. However, he said, the idea is now becoming popular.

“Pakistan has a lot of young people and it should capitalise on this resource. It is very important to foster inclusiveness through promoting social enterprise,” he added.

Social enterprises trade not only for profit but also for promoting social development, Executive Director SDPI Dr Abid Suleri explained.

He said the word ‘cooperative’ has become taboo in the country because of some scams in the 1908s and 1990s.

“Cooperatives need to be brought back to Pakistan through social enterprises,” he said.

Sharing the preliminary results of a study by SDPI, research fellow Dr Sheheryar Khan explained there were at least four different kinds of enterprises in Pakistan.

“These include for profit, non-profit, semi government organisations and for profit organisations established by social entrepreneurs”.

Social entrepreneurs are working in the education sector, health, water, human resources, energy and skill development.

Social entrepreneurship is ideal for creating job opportunities in a time when industries cannot accommodate all graduates, said Enterprise Development Strategist Sadaf Mehmood.

Published in Dawn, February 11th, 2016