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BRIEF

Youth Employment

February 4, 2014

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Highlights
  • In 2011, the International Labour Organization (ILO) estimated that 12.6% of youth in the global labor force are unemployed—about 74.6 million youth
  • Young people are at higher risk of unemployment, underemployment, or working in jobs with low earnings.
  • The World Bank Group supports interventions that improve labor market outcomes for youth, including policies to address employability and opportunities for self-employment and entrepreneurship.

The global population of young people (ages 15-34 years old) is large and growing, with greatest growth in sub-Saharan Africa, followed by South Asia.

In 2011, the International Labour Organization (ILO) estimated that 12.6% of youth in the global labor force are unemployed—about 74.6 million youth. In many countries, the youth unemployment rate is two to three times higher than for adults, and youth who are working are often engaged in precarious or vulnerable activities that provide low income and little security. The global financial crisis has also affected young people more than adult workers, and has increased the number of youth who are neither working nor studying.

Young people’s employment opportunities have welfare and growth consequences for their future. They are at higher risk of unemployment, underemployment, or working in jobs with low earnings. Unemployed youth do not get a chance to build professional skills. Addressing youth employment issues is a major concern for governments, and is all the more challenging where stable economic policies are not in place and institutions are weak.

Strategy

The World Bank Group supports interventions that improve labor market outcomes for youth, including policies to address market failures that affect employability and opportunities for self-employment and entrepreneurship. The Bank supports active labor market and youth employment programs that use training, public works, and job search assistance in helping young people develop skills and increase employment opportunities.

In collaboration with the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Youth Employment Network (YEN), and the International Labor Organization
(ILO), the Bank has developed a Youth Employment Inventory that provides comparative information among more than 500 youth employment programs in around 90 countries.

The Bank also recommends a simple conceptual framework—Skills Toward Employment and Productivity (STEP)—that can help policymakers, analysts, and researchers think through the design of systems to impart skills that enhance productivity and growth. Pulling together what is known about the elements of a successful skills development strategy, it can guide the preparation of diagnostic work on skills, and subsequently the design of policies across sectors to create productive employment and promote economic growth.

As a member of the Global Partnership for Youth Employment (GPYE), the Bank works with partner institutions in addressing challenges that face young people in their transition to work . With focus on Africa and Middle East regions, the partnership leverages technical and regional expertise on youth employment research, programming, evaluation and policy dialogue.

Results

Bank support for youth employment programs has achieved the following results:

  • In the Dominican Republic, the World Bank-financed Youth Development Project, launched in 2006, is helping at risk youth develop skills and increase job opportunities. Female participants of the project were reported to be more likely employed, to earn more and to find greater satisfaction in their work 12 to 18 months after completing the training. For all participants, the life skills training module increased their motivation to find a job.
  • India is offering business development and mentoring underprivileged entrepreneurs. Since the program began, more than 1,200 youth entrepreneurs have emerged, generating more than 11,700 new jobs.
  • In Kenya, a $60 million Bank-financed project is increasing access to youth-targeted temporary employment programs and improving youth employability.
  • A skills training program for adolescent girls in Liberia led to 50% increase in employment among trainees.
  • In Mexico, a $700-million loan is improving the internal efficiency of upper secondary education and its responsiveness to the labor market.
  • In Tunisia, a program has worked with about 140,000 youth as they transition from school to work, offering stipends, training, counseling, job-search assistance, and wage subsidies.
  • In Uganda, more than 6,000 unemployed youth have started enterprises and have improved their economic livelihoods.

The Bank recognizes evidence and data as key ingredients for improving the design and implementation of youth employment policies. Impact evaluations are increasingly being used to generate this evidence base.

The Bank has produced and supported several impact evaluations, covering topics around training programs, entrepreneurship and microenterprise development, public works programs, wage subsidies employment and job search services.