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.

One thought on “What Works for Youth Employment

  1. Being a Geographer and recently finished my phd thesis on the labour market inequalities, definitely one can say that the labour market has a form of a “Godian Knot” during an economical crisis period, especially for youth. In one of my essay titled “Youth and an Economically Sustainable Trajectory in Greece A Utopia?” I highlight the vital role of youth, which should be the key part, thus reflecting a high priority, in order to achieve and follow a sustainable economic trajectory. Only, with the involvement of youth will be a real improvement in human well – being and social equity, together with a significant reduction of risks and scarcities, since youth can
    provide an excellent basis upon which a sustainable strategy may be modeled.
    More specifically:
    Actions Taken by Youth
    The next question we do have to answer is how we as youth can achieve an economically
    sustainable development. The first initiative taken is simply the youth
    engagement to the whole development process, because youth are central to overcome
    the existing barriers. The key word is partnership of state and private initiative taken by
    the local youth population. The involvement of local communities in decision making
    process about strategic issues related to production will result in high success rates,
    because the members of the community have greater familiarity and understanding of
    their area, as opposed to external factors.
    Additionally, youth with the increased positive mood that characterized them should
    begin the foundation of new industries and enterprises, which will provide them with
    dignity and security, than consistently waiting and relying on jobs announcements of the
    Greek public sector. It is no coincidence that until recently the dream of each family in
    the country was the ensuring of a job position in the public sector of the economy, with a
    fixed salary and diminished responsibilities. So, a behavioral change of Greek society and
    youth that will combine imagination and practice together can make a great contribution
    for an effective development.
    In this point, essential is the role of Social Economy that youth should follo, together with the launch of “virtual” communities that will be truly comparable in impact and cohesion to physically face – to – face communities could be a real asset. In other words, the establishment of an online community that really encompasses young people can lead to the formation of social capital, which is essential for both to come close. Consequently, scholars and government officials should recognize the great contribution of social capital to the economic and social well – being
    of individuals. Moreover, an e – platform aims to offer as well a suitable framework for
    researchers to exchange ideas, research findings and views on present and future
    challenges about sustainable development. The platform will host also a forum, in which
    wishes and concerns will be expressed by young people. Forum will seek to contribute to
    the development of mutually accepted policy responses to the pressing challenges faced
    in the country. More specifically, it should aim at building a strong consensus on a long
    term basis in favor of regional integration and stability.

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