South Asia Development Forum

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Home to a fifth of mankind, and to almost half of the people living in poverty, South Asia is also a region of marked contrasts: from conflict-affected areas to vibrant democracies, from demographic bulges to aging societies, from energy crises to global companies. This series explores the challenges faced by a region whose fate is critical to the success of global development in the early 21st century, and can also make a difference for global peace. The volumes in it organize in an accessible way findings from recent research and lessons of experience, across a range of development topics. The series is intended to present new ideas and to stimulate debate among practitioners, researchers, and all those interested in public policies. In doing so, it exposes the options faced by decision makers in the region and highlights the enormous potential of this fast-changing part of the world.

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    Engendering Access to STEM Education and Careers in South Asia: Overview
    (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2023) Sosale, Shobhana ; Harrison, Graham Mark ; Tognatta, Namrata ; Nakata, Shiro ; Mukesh Gala, Priyal
    Building a skilled and diverse science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce is crucial for economic development, cross-border trade, and social inclusion in South Asia. However, underrepresentation of girls and women in STEM education and careers remains a persistent issue. What kinds of macro and micro socioeconomic interventions are needed to increase girls’ and women’s access to and participation in STEM education and careers in South Asia? Engendering Access to STEM Education and Careers in South Asia compares trends in South Asia with global trends to examine how access to and choices of STEM fields affects girls’ enrollment in upper secondary education, technical and vocational education and training, and higher education in the region, as well as selection of careers. Based on the analysis, it offers recommendations to policy makers and practitioners to improve inclusion. The following are among the findings: •Four key intervention points to increase inclusion in STEM education and careers and staunch the “leaky pipeline” are at enrollment in the upper primary, lower and upper secondary, and tertiary education levels; and during early career years. •A strong pathway from STEM education to career depends on an integrated, systematic approach that motivates students to pursue STEM fields, builds STEM skills, and removes barriers to diversity. •With the increasing migration of workers between countries in South Asia, preparing a critical mass of semiskilled and skilled STEM migrant workers has cross-border value, especially for workers migrating from smaller to larger economies. New ways of defining STEM occupations are required to help develop and sustain female interest in STEM education and careers. Potential strategies that governments can pursue include raising awareness and building knowledge and skills in STEM outside the formal academic environment, such as in after-school programs, science fairs and competitions, and summer camps, and developing and systematically disseminating standardized resources. Inclusion and diversity must be championed by governments, the private sector, and by stakeholders who stand to benefit from more diverse workforces. Though women themselves would likely be credible champions, in South Asia they are often constrained by a range of factors. This report addresses some of those factors.
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    Regional Investment Pioneers in South Asia: The Payoff of Knowing Your Neighbors
    (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2021-11-17) Kathuria, Sanjay ; Yatawara, Ravindra A. ; Zhu, Xiao’ou
    Regional economic engagement within South Asia may gain increasing importance owing to several factors that are currently in play, including strategies to diversify global value chains and locate such value chains nearer home. These developments offer South Asia a chance to enhance its low levels of regional economic engagement and capitalize on significant unrealized development opportunities. This report shows that examining intraregional investment and knowledge connectivity enhances our understanding of the low levels of intraregional trade and limited regional value chains in South Asia. Creating a new and unique data set for South Asian investment, it provides a detailed and nuanced understanding of the drivers of outward investment, both regional and global, for South Asian firms. “Regional Investment Pioneers in South Asia” provides key considerations for policy makers in South Asia, which remain particularly relevant in the aftermath of the pandemic. First, it makes a case for regulatory relaxation of outward FDI regimes, based on new micro foundations, grounded in value chains. Second, it spells out details of smart inward FDI promotion techniques and investment facilitation. Third, it identifies distinct cross-border information-enhancing and network development activities. Fourth, it suggests that digital connectivity and continued interventions in reducing trade costs are warranted to increase investment as well as trade flows. There is particular scope to build on the digitalization initiatives in trade and investment facilitation taken during the pandemic. “Regional Investment Pioneers in South Asia” follows on, and is complementary to, the earlier World Bank report, “A Glass Half Full: the Promise of Regional Trade in South Asia.”