Published on Jobs and Development

Facilitating A Youth Jobs Revolution – Part 1

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The statistics are distressingly familiar. Recent World Bank estimates suggest that about 6 percent of young people are unemployed, and another 20 percent are idle — that is, they are not working and are not in school or training. This is nearly 300 million young people altogether. In addition, there are hundreds of millions of young people around the world who are in unpaid or poorly paid and unproductive work. So we must bring millions of young people into work who are currently out of the workforce, and we must also help boost the productivity of those that are currently in poor jobs.

Girl working on a loom at a carpet and silk weaving center in the Herat Citadel in Afghanistan that is funded under the auspices of the Afghanistan Rural Enterprise Development Project (AREDP). Photo credit: Graham Crouch / World Bank

Yet we have too few successful solutions to match the scale of the youth employment challenge. The reality is that to make further progress, we need new insights, fresh ideas, and new partnerships, including directly involving employers and young people in finding answers — what is now being referred to as a "jobs revolution." Effective solutions will come from a collective global leadership that facilitates policy coordination, promotes rigorous learning and evidence, and engages the private sector effectively.

Many Programs, Few Reliable Lessons

Why do we know so little after so many youth jobs programs have been undertaken since the 2008 financial crisis by governments, NGOs, academia, multilaterals and other organizations? After all, the Word Bank, in partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank and the International Labour Organization, maintains an inventory of 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, and support to open a business and engage in self-employment.

Yet the sad reality is that we still haven't discovered interventions that are broadly applicable and that can be scaled up sustainably and reliably. Part of the problem is that we haven't been able to learn systematically what needs to be done to improve the design of current and future programs. Indeed, most of the programs out there haven't been rigorously evaluated, which leaves us unsure whether the changes we see among program beneficiaries are really due to the program or to some other unrelated events. 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. The other problem is that while employment and growth are generated by entrepreneurs and investors, employment programs are often managed by public institutions with weak links to the private sector.

New Initiatives to Find Solutions

In an effort to help turn this situation around, the World Bank Group (WBG) recently hosted a discussion on Boosting Shared Prosperity by Getting to Youth Employment Solutions, as part of the World Bank/IMF Annual Meetings. The panelists included representatives of government, international donors, civil society groups, and the private sector. The overall message was that we must redouble our efforts and act differently. As His Excellency Lamine Doghri, the Minister for International Cooperation of Tunisia, put it: "The first revolution has brought freedom. We hope that the next one creates more jobs." The panelists underscored the need for more effective solutions, and they urged firms and governments to invest in the development of markets, promote self-employment, and provide the skills needed for young people to find productive jobs.

One way this could happen, said Jennifer Silberman, Vice President for Corporate Responsibility for Hilton Hotels Worldwide, would be through the tourism and hospitality sector — not only by hiring young people to work in hotels and resorts but also by linking them to the value chains. "There is a huge ecosystem that supports the hotels, so the value chain, or supply chain, for one of our hotels is enormous, because it's everything from food and beverages, which are almost always sourced locally, to products and services, to transportation, to tourism groups." Hilton also works closely with local vocational schools and community organizations to develop a talented workforce. For more on this topic, see the JKP's interview with Silberman, up next, in Part 2 of this series.

This discussion is the beginning of a collaborative effort being led by the WBG to find effective, sustainable solutions for young people, which involves a number of organizations that are similarly dedicated to finding solutions for youth employment — Plan International, Accenture, the International Youth Foundation, and Youth Business International. The collective response is based on a global coalition oriented around three sets of activities:

  • First, pinpointing the constraints facing young people and what has worked to facilitate their entry to work, digesting the evidence, and preparing tools to facilitate effective policies and investment.
  • Second, coordinating and influencing the design, implementation, and evaluation of innovative and scalable interventions to create jobs for youth.
  • Third, engaging directly with the private sector, as providers of training and skills, as employers, and in the supply chain, as buyers of goods and services produced by young people.

Over the next few months we'll be able to put in place the mechanisms necessary to bring together the different actors involved in the youth employment agenda and start the work. As Chairman Nigel Chapman, Chief Executive Officer of Plan International, reminded us, the challenges we face can't be tackled by one particular facet of society alone. We must work together — not least by engaging with young people themselves.

This post was first published on the Jobs Knowledge Platform.


Mattias Lundberg

Senior Economist, Social Protection & Labor, World Bank

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