Asia could be annually losing nearly $34 billion in gross domestic product (GDP) due to children dropping out of school, according to a report commissioned by the logistics company DHL.
Out-of-school rates in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam rose exponentially as children grew older, with at least one in every three children dropping out by upper secondary-age, according to the report 'A Way Back to School'.
Subsequently, some of Asia's fastest growing economies may struggle to reach their full potential due to high rates of out-of-school children, with some countries ultimately being deprived of up to 2 percent of their GDP.
Poverty remains the most common cause of children exiting school, typically to provide their families additional income.
“The Asia Pacific region cannot rely on its rapid economic growth to automatically improve social outcomes like school retention,” said Christof Ehrhart, executive vice-president of corporate communications and responsibility of Deutsche Post DHL Group.
If Asia's public and private sectors do not take concerted action to reduce the rates of out-of-school children, the region's most promising economies may soon face a significant talent shortage.
The shortage could limit the speed of their future growth and development, Ehrhart added.
Nooruddin Chowdhury, country manager of DHL Global Forwarding Bangladesh, emphasised on successfully addressing this issue and not letting the next generation fall through the cracks.
There needs to be close collaboration between public and private sector efforts to invest in proven methods such as raising parental awareness of what their children could achieve with more education, he said.
“We must act quickly to do what's best for the next generation,” he added.
The report supports the company's GoTeach programme, which delivers a range of educational and vocational opportunities to young people in disadvantaged communities in all of the seven Asia Pacific countries.
GoTeach's educational activities, which were in partnership with global non-governmental organisation Teach for All, benefited nearly 11,000 children in Bangladesh, India, Malaysia and the Philippines in 2017.
At the same time, the GoTeach partnership with global non-governmental organisation SOS Children's Villages saw DHL employees spend over 2,000 hours mentoring, training and providing internship opportunities to youths in Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam.
With the programme, DHL contributes meaningfully to the United Nations' 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Develop-ment, specifically to the Sustainable Development Goals of quality education and partnerships for the goals.
Improving parental awareness of the benefits of completing secondary education tends to result in higher rates of students staying in school than other traditional measures like grants and subsidies, the report said. The benefits include wage premiums of up to 44 percent in Bangladesh.
Schools catering to the special needs of low-income or disadvantaged students also contribute significantly to reducing out-of-school levels.