What Works for Youth Employment

A. Berar Awad G20 picture

Azita Berar Awad, Director of ILO’s Employment Policy Department

“What works?” is one of the most recurrent questions we receive from those looking for efficient solutions to address the youth employment challenge. Turning this demand into evidence-based action is at the centre of our efforts.

We must reckon with the fact that answers to this question are context and time specific.

Today, over 70 million youth are looking for jobs while nearly 160 million are working, yet living in poverty. These figures embody a massive waste of potential and a threat to social cohesion.

Impacting the present and future

Youth unemployment and decent work deficits depreciate human capital and have a significant negative influence on health, happiness, anti-social behaviour, and socio-political stability. They impact the present and future well-being of our societies.

Moreover, conditions in youth labour markets are changing constantly and rapidly, so are the profiles and aspirations of young women and men who are entering the labour force every day.

For most, expectations of decent work are not only about earning an income and making a livelihood. Youth see decent work as the cornerstone of their life project, the catalyst for their integration into society, and the pathway to their participation into the broader social and political arena.

A key ingredient for the 2030 Agenda

Societies and economies everywhere, whether undergoing population ageing or challenged by the demographic youth bulge, are relentlessly persevering in facilitating youth’s transition from school to decent work. In the present tight economic and labour market conditions, decent work for youth is key to realizing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Understanding what works, what doesn’t, how, where and why – taking into account the diversity of country situations, local conditions and heterogeneity of backgrounds and opportunities amongst young women and men – is therefore of paramount importance!

A new knowledge platform

That is why we have launched the What Works in Youth Employment knowledge platform, a new tool that seeks to promote decent jobs for youth through better knowledge and user-friendly resources that will entice evidence-based dialogue, action and collaboration.

The platform echoes our Call for Action, presenting knowledge resources in areas such as

  • Economic and employment policies,
  • Skills training,
  • Entrepreneurship Promotion,
  • Subsidized Employment,
  • Employment Services, and
  • Rights for Youth

The knowledge platform is designed for you to take advantage of the findings from experimental evaluations, experts’ discussions and recommendations about what works, good practices, and even learn about recent or upcoming learning events on youth employment.  These resources will grow over time, offering state of the art information and evidence on this topic.

Visit the new What Works in Youth Employment platform

The platform will feed the knowledge facility of the Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth, the umbrella partnership uniting the UN system, governments, social partners, private sector, youth representatives, civil society, parliamentarians, foundations, the academia, and many more key influential partners, who are working together to make a difference for young people everywhere.

I invite you to explore the platform, engage in the discussions, and share with us your views, experiences and research about What Works in Youth Employment!

5 things we’ve learned on youth employment:

  1. Investing in youth employment pays off. A collection of over 100 evaluation studies of youth employment programmes shows that promoting decent jobs for youth through skills training, entrepreneurship, wage subsidies, and employment services leads to higher employment and greater incomes among youth.
  1. It is, however, an investment that needs time to grow. Changes in labour market outcomes take time to materialize. They are more detectable a year after exposure to a youth employment programme, stressing the importance of considering youth employment as a long-term investment.
  1. There is no silver bullet: context has a strong role to play in determining the impact of youth employment interventions. Programme impact, for instance, is more pronounced in developing than in developed countries. In lower income countries, with large cohorts of disadvantaged youth, marginal investments in skills and employment opportunities lead to larger changes in outcomes. In high income countries, where labour demand is skill intensive, youth employment programmes help unemployed and unskilled youth to (re)connect to the labour market, but they do not fully compensate for any failure to acquire knowledge or skills earlier in the education system.
  1. The evidence highlights the merits of combining supply- and demand-side interventions and provides tangible evidence about the importance of continued investments in youth’s human capital through education and training.
  1. How programmes are implemented is just as important as what is being delivered. Appropriate targeting and programme design are strong predictors of programme success. Youth employment increases when interventions target the most disadvantaged youth – those with low levels of education, school dropouts, youth from low income families, or long-term unemployed. Some key design features that enhance employment outcomes include: participant profiling, monitored programme participation, and incentives for both youth and service providers.

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