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Submitted by Mattias Lundberg on

Dear Gloria,

Thank you for drawing our attention to the issue of youth development and the Bank’s role in finding and implementing solutions, in partnership with the UN and others. You are right that our ability to eliminate extreme poverty and create a world of shared prosperity requires that we engage more effectively with and for today’s young people. Whether we succeed or fail will be determined by how effective we are in creating a world in which young people are able to develop and make use of their talents and to fulfill their ambitions. Today’s 13-year old will be 30 in 2030. Our collective future depends on our ability to make sure that she has access to the services and opportunities that she needs.

As you say, we can’t do it alone, even as one World Bank Group. We must engage more directly and intentionally with policymakers, with young people themselves, and with the private sector, to develop solutions and facilitate the entry of young people into a happy and productive adulthood.

Please let me mention one other issue that we face in our efforts to develop this world and these opportunities. In spite of many years and hundreds of millions of dollars invested, we still have a poor idea of where the constraints really lie, and how we can intervene and invest to alleviate them most effectively. The Bank’s Youth Employment Inventory, which we maintain in partnership with the IDB and the ILO, includes more than 800 programs that have been implemented during the past five years. These programs include various types of training (including life skills), job search assistance, wage subsidies, or support to open a business and engage in self-employment.

The sad reality is that we still have not discovered interventions that are generally applicable and that can be scaled up sustainably and reliably. Part of the problem is that we have not been able to learn systematically about what we do in order to improve the design of current and future programs. Indeed, most of the programs out there have not been rigorously evaluated: we can’t be sure that the changes we see among program beneficiaries are really due to the program. And those programs that have been evaluated rarely yield solid recommendations about what programs work in different contexts, or how to design and implement them.

One overarching problem that limits the impact of programs is that while employment and growth are generated in the private sector, employment programs are often managed by public institutions with weak linkages to the private sector. The lack of involvement of the private sector is also problematic when designing programs to support self-employment or small scale entrepreneurship. Although these programs can increase productivity and output, they are likely to fail if new businesses do not have access to larger markets and value chains. Conversely, the private sector understands that it has a clear interest in engaging with young people, whether as a part of good corporate citizenship, or by investing in youth as consumers, workers, suppliers, or distributors.

Given the scale of the challenge, we need to devote more energy to developing and harnessing effective solutions. As a first step, as you note, the WBG is beginning conversations with organizations that are involved in the area of youth employment to plan our collective response. These discussions have led us to think about establishing a global Coalition oriented around three sets of activities. First, understand what is going on in the area of youth employment, digest the evidence, and prepare tools to facilitate effective policy and investment. Second, to coordinate and influence the design, implementation, and evaluation of innovative and scalable interventions to create jobs for youth. Finally, engage with the private sector directly, as providers of training and skills, as employers, and as actors in the supply chain.