Chandni is a 20 year old Bangladeshi young woman with big dreams. She dropped out of school to care for her family, including her unemployed brother. Without childcare, reliable transportation or affordable internet, she isn’t able to enroll in supplemental courses. Without an education or skills, she can’t find decent work and is caught in a vicious cycle of generational poverty.
Stakes are high
Chandni’s story is sadly not unique. On International Youth Day, we recognize the hundreds of millions of young women and men that find themselves stuck on the margins of society, unable to work towards a better situation for themselves and their families.
Young people are up to 4 times more likely to be unemployed than adults. And, even when they find work, it is more often insecure or in the informal economy where pay is low, conditions variable, and benefits non-existent. The ILO estimates that nearly a third of youth who are employed are still poor, living below $4 a day. Young women are often at a disadvantage with prospects further marred by educational, social, and institutional constraints: as many as 85% percent of young women in the Middle East and North Africa, South Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa regions are working in vulnerable employment. At the same time, history demonstrates the dividends that can be reaped when youth have a stronger footing in the economy.
This year’s theme: “The Road to 2030: Eradicating Poverty and Achieving Sustainable Consumption and Production” is apt.
With the Sustainable Development Goals, the world has committed itself to eliminating poverty in all its forms (Goal 1) and to ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns (Goal 12). Jobs-based economic growth is crucial to achieve both these ambitious goals and to ensure young people can both contribute to and benefit from increased prosperity.
This notion underscores the inclusive vision of the Solutions for Youth Employment Coalition (S4YE) of a world where all youth have access to job opportunities that empower them to escape extreme poverty, thus boosting shared prosperity worldwide.
Sustainability needs youth
Across the developing world, an estimated two thirds of youth are not fulfilling their economic potential. If educated and equipped, today’s youth can get to work, secure safer and more productive livelihoods in advanced agriculture and green jobs, and drive economies through the 21st century.
Assessments have shown that the private sector is the main driver in the fight against poverty, providing 9 in 10 jobs. S4YE partners are implementing evidence-driven programs like Skills for Green Jobs, YouthSpark and Skills to Succeed to support and prepare young people for productive work in today’s green, digital, service, knowledge and advanced manufacturing economies. And, in cases such as the digital hubs in India, helping girls and young women to succeed in fields such as science and math, where their potential may have been limited by bias.
Studies show that young people are most likely to start a new business, but too often a lack of capital or market knowledge holds them back. If financed and mentored, today’s youth can better tap into their entrepreneurial zeal, leverage their technological prowess and innovate new products and services across value and supply chains that promote and protect both people and planet. From Tanzania to Morocco and beyond, S4YE partners are supporting young business owners with the tools to succeed.
Youth are the most connected generation in human history, and represent a massive emerging middle class. If given voice and space to act, today’s youth can combine their purchasing power with ideas, purpose, and networks to create an even stronger movement for social impact, responsible waste management, and environmentally sound consumption. With programs such as Youth Action Net, S4YE partners are investing in youth-led social innovation and sustainability.
Engaging youth is critical
Despite the fact that youth comprise a third of population in many low and middle income nations, most development plans are woefully under-representative. A survey revealed that two out of three countries do not consult young people in preparing such plans or poverty reduction strategies. If given a chance to participate, today’s youth can offer fresh perspective and help design, execute and evaluate more impactful and sustainable programs and policies. On Youth Day and every day, S4YE partners are at the forefront of youth engagement in planning and decision-making - utilizing “Youth Think Tanks” to ensure the perspectives of youth inform and drive activities, and taking concrete steps at the United Nations to put advancement of the sustainable development agenda in youth hands.
While in many ways the current situation is grim, the good news is that young people could be best poised to act on and benefit from this call to action. We know this from the emerging evidence (but we need more rigorous data, research and evaluation), and perhaps even more importantly, the inspiration we get from the world’s talented and aspirational youth.
For more information about the coalition on Solutions for Youth Employments, check out their website here.
Follow the World Bank Jobs Group on Twitter @wbg_jobs.