Published on Voices

Increasing literacy levels in young people could help meet rising aspirations

In the next 15 years, the world will need 600 million jobs for young people . The Solutions for Youth Employment coalition (S4YE), which provides leadership and resources to increase the number of young people engaged in productive work, found that in the next 20 years, global growth will be driven by young people.

This World Youth Skills Day, we are looking at some of the challenges when it comes to youth employment. Currently, there are 621 million youth who are not being educated, employed or trained. Worse, youth unemployment is three times higher than the adult unemployment rate . And for those who manage to get a job, 1 in 4 young people can’t find work for more than $1.25 a day! 

In their study, the Solutions for Youth Employment coalition cited the low quality of education and training without clear link to labor markets, as one of the contributors to the daunting statistics above. I used this as an indicator to dig deeper into the World Bank’s data on global literacy rates to find out how they fare between males and females across regions.

From the chart above, we can see that Europe and Central Asia had the highest literacy rate of 99.74% for male youth, in 2010. Again, we can also see that Sub-Saharan Africa had the lowest rate at 76.86% for the same year. What is perhaps most interesting is the drastic gap in literary rates between males and females across regions. Given that Africa has the youngest population in the world, it’s not surprising that the highest literacy gap between males and females, is also found in the region. It also happens to have the highest rate of unemployment amongst the youth, globally. A further look at the Sub Saharan Africa region revealed that in 2010, Botswana had the highest literacy rate (for females) at 100%  while Niger had the lowest at 27%.

To end poverty, countries should invest in their people. Botswana did just that –the country’s public investment in education is high, at more than 9% of the country’s GDP. Last year, the World Bank group committed to investing $2.5 billion over five years in education projects which directly benefit girls. This support will come in handy especially for regions such as Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia which have the highest number of out of school girls.

As we work to meet the rising aspirations of young people across the world, we should consider education as one of the driving tools. For instance, in places like Africa which has a population of 1.2 billion, 226 million smart phones were connected to the internet in 2015. As more people are connected to the internet, aspirations (which are linked to opportunity) will continue to rise.

Preparing these young people with the relevant skills attained through education and training will help us create dynamism and inclusive, sustainable economic growth.


Zubedah Robinson

Digital Engagement Specialist

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