Technology and the internet are probably the first things that come to mind when you think about the future of work for young people; not agriculture or farming. This makes historic sense, as agriculture sheds labor when countries develop. And the traditional ways of producing food do not look particularly sexy. Yet, technology and the internet are also opening up opportunities for agriculture, and urbanization and changing diets are calling for new ways to process, market and consume our foods. So, can agriculture provide job opportunities for youth?
Tomorrow is International Youth Day!
This year, we have reasons to celebrate. Globally, more and more young people are receiving an education and women are making some progress in key indicators like life expectancy and economic engagement outside the home. But there persist urgent reasons to double down on efforts to engage the global youth population in productive work:
1 in 4 young people in the world cannot find jobs paying more than $1.25 per day, the international threshold of extreme poverty.
Youth are at the heart of migration. Between 2010 and 2015, the estimated net inflow of young people of working age population was 14.8 million.
During a meeting with top government officials in Zambia recently, the World Bank Regional Vice-president for Africa, Makhtar Diop, asked what was at the top of their minds. "Jobs!", was their unanimous response. He turned around to his team and said: "Please continue to focus on jobs and support the government in achieving their ambition." Indeed, jobs is an issue we have been focusing on in Zambia for over a year.
On May 18-19, the G20 Ministers of Labor met in Bad Neuenahr, Germany to discuss and adopt their annual Labor and Employment Ministerial Meeting (LEMM) Declaration advocating for "an integrated set of policies that places people and jobs at center stage." In this, the meeting did not shy away from some of the more thorny issues to reach the overarching goal of fostering "inclusive growth and a global economy that works for everyone." It focused on the much-feared future-of-work, the longstanding challenge of more and better employment for women, better integration of recognized migrants and refugees in domestic labor markets, and ensuring decent work in the international supply chains.
The youth employment challenge is a stubborn reality in all regions and nearly every country. Over 35 per cent of the estimated 201 million unemployed people today are youth (between the ages of 15 and 24). Worldwide, the challenge is not only to create jobs but to ensure quality jobs for young people who are often underemployed, work in the informal economy, or engage in vulnerable employment. Today, two out of every five young people in the labor force are either working but poor or unemployed.
How can we provide employment to the 1.8 billion young people that live on this planet? Will we have enough jobs for all these young people? Will there be sufficient high-quality and high-productivity work, especially for women, who are often the most vulnerable when it comes to finding meaningful work?
According to the World Bank Development Report on Digital Dividends (2016), the rapid spread of digital technologies around the world is boosting economic growth and expands opportunities in many instances; but the benefits of technological changes are not evenly distributed to workers globally. For high-skilled workers, technology in most cases complements their skills, increases their productivity, and often leads to higher wages. Whereas for middle and low-skilled workers, benefits depend on the degree to which technology either complements or substitutes workers in job functions.
My colleague Victoria and I had an opportunity recently to meet with students at the Tajik-Russian Slavonic University in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, as part of our research and preparation for a new report called Tajikistan Jobs Diagnostic: Strategic Framework for Jobs.
Curious to learn about their future professional ambitions, we asked one class of students how many of them would like to work in the private sector after they graduate. Only about 10% of the students raised their hands. We also asked them how many would like to work for the government. This time, around 20% raised their hands.
On December 14th and 15th donor and borrower country representatives of the World Bank Group will meet in Yogyakarta, Indonesia to finalize details for the 18th replenishment of IDA. The final agreement on IDA18 is expected to usher in a new era for IDA, the Bank’s fund for the poorest, dramatically increasing the level of financing and the potential for impact on development for the world’s poorest countries.
Central to the discussions on IDA over the past year has been the issue of jobs – how to deliver more jobs to meet the demands of a growing youth population; how best to improve job quality, particularly for the vast majority of workers in IDA countries who struggle in subsistence-level self-employment and other forms of informal employment; and how to make jobs more inclusive to women, youth, and populations in remote and lagging regions.