Expert views

Scaling up action on youth employment with the Global Goals

3 July 2018
Felix Weidenkaff, International Labour Organization

The Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth is securing a better future for young people

Starting a business has made me feel successful, because I help to train others who will soon create their own businesses,’ says Nuru Nassor, a 24-year-old Tanzanian woman. She recently made the transition from part-time tailor to young entrepreneur with six other young women training as tailors in her business. She started her own enterprise following a nine-month apprenticeship in the Kazi Nje Nje Business Development Services programme. ‘Kazi Nje Nje’ literally means ‘Jobs out there ready to grab.’

More than 50% of the programme’s participants went on to start their own business within a year, which in turn has created 28,834 new jobs in retail, services, manufacturing and agriculture in the United Republic of Tanzania (Young entrepreneurs in Tanzania: Where are they now? ILO, 2017). This is just one of many such programmes that helps young people like Nuru carve their own path in a rapidly changing labour market. However, despite the clear positive impacts of interventions like Kazi Nje Nje, youth unemployment and underemployment remain a stubborn challenge – and not just in Tanzania.

GLOBAL CHALLENGE The global youth unemployment rate remained consistently high since the 2008 financial crisis. In practice, this means that over 66 million young people are currently out of work and another 145 million are living in working poverty, according to the most recent Trends Econometric Models of the International Labour Organization (ILO). Evidence from country-level surveys shows more than three-quarters of young workers are engaged in informal employment, often characterized by low pay, erratic hours, hazardous conditions and lack of social security.

These figures indicate the extent of the challenge and, in response, there has been increased policy attention and investments in youth employment in the last decade. By and large, these efforts have been fragmented and have not yet made a significant dent in the situation of young people. It has become increasingly clear that a global challenge requires a global response. That’s where the Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth comes in. COMMITTING TO ACTION The initiative (‘Decent Jobs for Youth’) was launched in 2016 with the endorsement of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination. It was conceived as the overarching and inclusive effort to scale up country-level action on youth employment in line with the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular Goal 8 on decent work and economic growth.

The goal of the Global Initiative is simple: using the considerable convening power of the United Nations, it brings together a diverse array of partners – including governments, social partners, youth and civil society, the private sector and more – and gets them working from the same playbook to create more and better jobs for young people around the world.

All partners subscribe to the same set of guiding principles to ensure that action, for example, engages directly with young people; focuses on both the supply and demand side of the labour market; and takes a right-based and gender-responsive approach to decent work.

The initiative also encourages partners to focus on key priority areas. Some – such digital skills and green jobs – equip young people for work in the industries of the future, while others – youth in fragile situations and in rural economies – ensure vulnerable or disadvantaged groups are the focus of tailored interventions.
At the heart of Decent Jobs for Youth are commitments made by partners. To become a partner, an organization must commit to taking concrete action on youth employment, outlining clear measurable goals linked to specific targets of the SDGs and a realistic timeframe for delivery as part of the process.

To date, the initiative has secured commitments aimed at increasing the quantity and quality of jobs available to over 16 million young women and men. Nestlé has committed to reach 10 million young people with employability and entrepreneurship by 2030. The International Telecommunication Union and the ILO have joined forces to launch Digital Skills for Decent Jobs for Youth, a global campaign to equip 5 million young people with job-ready transferable digital skills by 2030. The Digital Skills Toolkit provides very concrete ideas on how to achieve this goal. The Citi Foundation has committed $100 million to prepare 500,000 young people in cities around the world for today’s competitive job market through entrepreneurship training, targeted mentorship, leadership development and first job opportunities.

Decent Jobs for Youth goes beyond simply securing commitments from partners. As a central facilitator, it identifies linkages and synergies between commitments and ensures cohesion between efforts. Partners who may never have encountered each other in different circumstances can pool their resources and expertise and ultimately form new partnerships that can achieve more than any one organization working alone.EVIDENCE-DRIVEN INNOVATION We generally know what works in youth employment. What’s lacking is the scale and depth needed to improve labour market outcomes for young people in a sustainable way. Decent Jobs for Youth focuses on gathering evidence, based on the collective experiences of its partners and replicating and scaling the solutions that really work. The recently launched Guide on Measuring Decent Jobs for Youth provides practical and accessible guidance for measuring impact at country-level, generating data that can be added to a growing knowledge bank of best practices and effective interventions.

However, the Global Initiative does not only focus on existing solutions. It also seeks out and amplifies innovation. Events such as this year’s Innovations for Decent Jobs for Youth conference provide a platform for partners to meet face to face, to share ideas and innovative approaches and, crucially, to find opportunities for collaboration. This event featured several youth leaders and young entrepreneurs in key roles as speakers and moderators in line with the Initiative’s focus on youth-led solutions. After all, the best way to solve any problem is to listen to and empower those most affected by it.UNIQUE ALLIANCE The youth employment challenge is not just a problem for the 66 million young people currently out of work, or the 145 million who live in poverty despite holding a job.

It’s also a major concern for our global, regional and national economies as well as society as a whole. Long periods of unemployment and underemployment can have permanent negative effects on a person’s long-term career prospects and the current crisis could include an entire generation of talent, education and aspirations going to waste.

A commitment to Decent Jobs for Youth is recognized as a direct and official contribution towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. But this is only one of the concrete benefits that the Initiative offers its partners. By becoming a partner an organization gains access to expertise, resources, networking opportunities and cutting-edge knowledge. They also gain partners from many different spheres of influence – think tanks, foundations, government agencies, youth organizations and corporations – working towards the same goals and eager to collaborate. They gain recognition as leaders and influencers in creating fair and stable employment for young people across the globe.

Most importantly, they gain the opportunity to make a real difference to young people; bright, driven young people like Nuru Nassor, who want nothing more or less than to reach their full potential and create a better future.