Youth employment and development
A youth focus within the employment and development debate, including the post-2015 agenda, is warranted for a number of key reasons:
Early work experience affects work and wellbeing throughout a person’s life.
Youth employment outcomes have spillovers across society, affecting social and political stability, and to future generations.
Today’s youth population is the largest the world has ever seen. The size of the challenge and economic burden is therefore unprecedented.
Vulnerable groups of youth stand to lose out in today’s environment of fierce competition for scarce jobs, exacerbating inequality within current youth cohorts.
The school-to-work transition of young people has to be analysed taking into account of parallel key early life transitions, including cohabitation, marriage and childbearing.
The various youth employment indicators show that low unemployment and inactivity rates are not necessarily signs of better youth labour market outcomes, as they mask high rates of vulnerable employment, informal work, and working poverty.
South Asia and especially Sub-Saharan Africa face the largest youth employment challenge in terms of size and share of the youth population. These are also the regions where vulnerable employment shares (self-employment and unpaid work) are highest, particularly in the low-income countries. Vulnerable employment and working poverty are highest among youth with no or little education and in rural areas.
Middle-income countries in the Southern Mediterranean and Sub-Saharan Africa have the world’s highest youth unemployment rates. Youth unemployment rates tend to rise with education and are higher in urban areas. Women fare much worse than men in these regions, both in terms of unemployment and vulnerable employment.
Even in wage employment, jobs can be informal, low-productivity, and low-pay. It is thus important not to focus exclusively on unemployment and self-employment rates as youth employment indicators. If the aim of youth employment policies is to secure decent work for young people, then productivity, earnings, social protection, and aspects such as occupational safety and health and job security all need to be considered.