This report begins by laying out the dynamics of the youth employment challenge in Sub-Saharan Africa: The demographic transition, the role of mineral exports, the largely untapped reservoir of opportunities in farming, and the aspirations of youth and policy makers, which focus on the wage employment sector at the expense of more immediate opportunities in family farming and household enterprises. The report then examines obstacles faced by households and firms in meeting the youth employment challenge. It focuses primarily on productivity because it is the key to higher earnings as well as to more stable, less vulnerable, livelihoods. The report identifies specific areas where government intervention can reduce obstacles to productivity growth.
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Chapter 1: Opportunities and Challenges for Youth Employment in Africa
This chapter assesses the specific challenges and opportunities related to youth employment on farms, in nonfarm household enterprises, and in modern wage jobs. It examines these issues and possible interventions in light of two types of binding constraints to higher productivity for young people in those sectors: constraints related to human capital and constraints related to the business environment.
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Chapter 2: Youth: A Time of Transitions
Because adolescence is a critical period of transition and development, including for socio-emotional skills, economic or health shocks occurring during that time can have long-lasting consequences. Many types of market or government failures could potentially constrain these transitions. Examples include labor market rigidities that lengthen the school-to-work transition, inadequate information on the risks of certain choices, and lack of access to finance for pursuing higher education or starting a business. The chapter examines ways to enable youth to manage these transitions better—in particular, to develop pathways to higher productivity and higher-earning jobs.
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Chapter 3: Skills for Productive Employment
Skills strongly influence where people work and how much they earn. In Africa, rapid increases in school participation and educational attainment have often come at the cost of quality, contributing to a serious shortfall in the skills for productive employment. This chapter explores ways to increase the quality of schooling to ensure that it delivers actual learning and skills. Other important priorities reviewed are means to identify and directly build the socioe-motional and behavioral skills that contribute to productivity, including the skills demanded by employers.
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Chapter 4: Agriculture as a Sector of Opportunity for Young Africans
Agriculture, already Africa’s largest employer, is the most immediate means of catalyzing economic growth and employment for young people. To realize this potential, farming must shift rapidly from its present status as occupation of last resort and low productivity to one of technical dynamism and recognized opportunity. This chapter finds that the sector’s ability to create jobs will not be realized without modifications to public programs. Present levels of public investment are not sufficient. The quality of investment is inadequate to yield high returns. Too much has gone into short-term palliatives, such as fertilizer subsidies, without complementary attention to improved technologies and management practices and long-term investments in research and infrastructure.
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Chapter 5: Creating Productive Employment for Youth in the Household Enterprise Sector
This chapter explores elements that are key to develop national strategies that facilitate entry into the Household Enterprise (HE) sector, provide an environment to make it more productive, and realize the corresponding benefits for youth employment and economic growth. This is especially important given that even exceptionally high economic growth in nonfarm sectors has not and will not generate enough new nonfarm wage employment to absorb both the new entrants and those who seek to leave agriculture.
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Chapter 6: Raising Productivity in Africa’s Modern Wage Enterprises to Foster Job Growth for Youth
This chapter discusses the wage employment sector, which is Africa’s engine for employment and growth in the medium to long term. It finds that wage employment is growing unevenly across Africa. Modern manufacturing firms, in particular, account for only 3 percent of employment and export very little. This limited competitiveness is mainly the result of low productivity, which points to government and market failures that vary across the subcontinent but have similar effects.
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Chapter 7: Conclusion: Building an Effective Youth Employment Policy
The report recommends that governments look beyond the short and medium term challenges of structural transformation to address youth employment. This challenge requires a comprehensive approach designed to relieve the constraints that prevent young people and the private sector from seizing opportunities and increasing productivity in agriculture, household enterprises, and the modern wage sector. This chapter describes concrete actions that can be taken in that direction.
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