Development Dialogue: Improving Youth Employment

With some 75 million young people in the developing world unemployed and hundreds of millions more underemployed, youth employment is one of this century’s most pressing problems. Every year, 20 million young people enter the labor force in Africa and Asia alone. In the Middle East and North Africa, 80 percent of young workers work in the informal sector. One in four young people globally cannot find work for more than US$1.25 a day. Yet global growth and poverty reduction over the next 15 years will be driven by today’s youth. This has obvious economic and social consequences, and societies—and governments—are motivated to find new ways to create productive employment and promote economic growth. So are private sector actors, since for them, young people will be today’s workforce and tomorrow’s customers.

So join us to discuss "what works," and what’s needed, to increase youth employability. Discuss what packages of interventions, public and private, are needed to make a dent in this issue. Let’s break down the elements of a successful skills development strategy and share examples of policies across sectors—and across countries and contexts. We look forward to discovering and discussing global innovations and new initiatives enabling youth to improve their own economic livelihoods.

Arup Banerji, Senior Director and head of Global Practice, Social Protection and Labor, World Bank Group, Moderator. 

Arup Banerji is the World Bank’s Senior Director and head of the Global Practice for Social Protection and Labor, overseeing strategy and knowledge work on labor markets, social safety nets, pensions, and disability issues. In his career at the World Bank, he has worked on both research and operations in Eastern Europe, Central Asia, Africa and the Middle East on a variety of issues relating to employment and labor markets, social protection systems, social sector reforms, poverty reduction, institutions, public sector reform and governance, economic growth strategies and evaluation of programs. He also co-chairs the global Social Protection Inter-Agency Cooperation Board and the Youth Employment Network. Prior to joining the World Bank, he taught at the Center for Development Economics at Williams College, Massachusetts, USA, where he was the Director of Graduate Studies, and at the University of Pennsylvania, USA. He holds a PhD and a Master’s degree in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania, USA, and a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Delhi, India.

Arup: 75 million young women and men are unemployed across the developing and emerging world. And perhaps five or six times that number are under-employed— working, but precariously, at pay that keeps them at or below poverty levels and well below their capacity to contribute.  And multitudes are entering the job market every day.

Youth employment is one of the most critical social, political and economic challenges of the early 21st century. Just think of the consequences of the masses of today’s young people being unable to find the jobs that lift them out of poverty and allow them to prosper. For the global community, the dream of ending extreme poverty and promoting inclusive societies by 2030 will be just that—a dream. For countries, political and social schisms will increase, as inequalities increase and dissatisfaction seethes. And for the young people themselves, joblessness will jeopardize their own sense of identity and of their role as a contributing member of society.

So this conversation is about finding the solutions the world desperately needs—solutions that are scalable, so as to be able to affect millions and not just thousands. 

Join this conversation. Share your practical ideas and experiences on how we can find the best solutions for youth employment. Tell us what has worked, what seems to be working, if there’s evidence, or if there are promising innovations. And through this, let us grow our collective knowledge around this topic to create practical tools that can help secure the future of our young people.

Jill Huntley, Managing Director for Global Corporate Citizenship, Accenture, on the need for collective action to meet the challenges of youth employment.

Jill Huntley previously worked in the Talent and Organization practice of Accenture’s Management Consulting business. In 2002 Jill co-founded Accenture Development Partnerships (ADP), an innovative non-profit venture that channels Accenture’s skills and expertise to the international development sector. She is member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Youth Unemployment. Prior to Accenture, Jill worked in the non-profit sector. Jill grew up in SE Asia and has lived and worked extensively in Europe, North America and Asia. She holds a Master’s degree in Anthropology and Development from Cambridge University and a Graduate Diploma in Psychology.  

Jill: Between today and 2030, one billion young people will enter the labor market. Their transition to productive employment is essential if they are to escape poverty and boost sustainable economic growth worldwide. To keep employment rates constant, the global economy will need to create five million jobs each month – the majority of which are currently created by the private sector in the developing world.

Yet, youth employment programs are often managed by public institutions without strong collaboration from the private sector. Few undergo rigorous evaluation, and many are replicated without a clear sense of whether they are, or will be, successful. Additionally, many interventions are on a small scale, or compartmentalized, preventing success stories from being scaled as well as replicated in other areas with similar needs.

To meet this great challenge, collective action is necessary to coordinate and inform the design of new initiatives capable of achieving scale. Convening partnerships is a key success factor for Accenture’s Skills to Succeed corporate citizenship initiative. In Spain, for example, we helped bring together more than 75 social organizations, companies and public administrations to establish a shared understanding of youth employment challenges. Drawing on the strengths of each organization, we then prioritize and implement solutions.

No one company can address the issues of employability and entrepreneurship alone. Building skills and improving the well-being of communities worldwide demands collaboration between the private sector, governments and civil society. I look forward to the sharing of insights over the next two weeks, learning what is working and how we can put these new ideas into action.

Bill Reese, CEO, International Youth Foundationon how best to move forward in discussing youth employability. 

Bill Reese was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of the International Youth Foundation in 2005, having joined IYF in May 1998 as its Chief Operating Officer. He was President and CEO of Partners of the Americas for twelve years. Previously, he served with the Peace Corps for ten years, first as a volunteer in Salvador, Brazil, then as director of Brazil operations, and in Washington as deputy director of the Latin American and Caribbean region. He currently sits on the board of The Prince's Youth Business International in the UK as well as InterAction, where he served previously as Chair. Mr. Reese has also joined the Alcatel-Lucent Foundation Board and serves as a board member of two organizations committed to certifying best practices in global supply chains in the apparel and toy industries: W.R.A.P. and ICTI Care Foundation. Reflecting his interest in promoting international volunteerism, he has joined the boards of Encore International Service Corps and Global Citizen Year. Mr. Reese received his BA in Political Science from Stanford University and is a 1995 graduate of the Business School’s Executive Program.

Bill: With 75 million young people today officially unemployed, and millions more underemployed or stuck in dead-end low-paying jobs, there is little debate around why we need to prioritize efforts to address this global crisis. The question is how best to move forward. Do our efforts match the urgency and enormity of the challenge? Are we collaborating with the right partners? What’s working, and what’s not? Why do we sometimes repeat the same mistakes?  

Over the past few years, programs designed to expand opportunities for today’s young men and women to get decent jobs or start their own businesses have led to a range of promising initiatives. But with one billion youth entering the workforce between now and 2030, and youth jobless rates rising, it is clear we must move beyond pilot programs to scalable and sustained action. From my perspective as a member of the global NGO community, progress can only be made when NGOs, governments, and the business sector join forces, mobilize resources, share best practices, and promote systemic change.

There are many “live” examples of the power of collaboration and scale. For example, in order to solve today’s real disconnect between the skills that young people are learning in vocational training centers and the skills that are in demand by the private sector, NGOs and governments in Latin America and elsewhere are working closely with industry sector partners to develop job training programs that meet the needs of companies while ensuring young people get the jobs they need to build their own futures. Scaling up such tested programs through a country’s vocational training system means not just hundreds but tens or hundreds of thousands of young people will benefit.

Another concrete example of promoting systemic change is taking place in Mexico, where IYF is forging links with the public school system and the private sector to both empower students with the right skills and experiences to secure decent jobs and meet the needs and expectations of Mexico’s private sector employers. This time the large public school system is the pathway to scalable, sustainable progress.

I look forward to a lively exchange around what all of you believe are the most effective strategies to address this most critical and urgent global challenge of our time.  


Mphatso Matenda, Steering Committee Member, Youth to Youth Community (Y2Y), The World Bank, on the importance of youth engagement in employability. 

Mphatso Matenda is a young Development Knowledge & Learning Professional with 2 years experience in the World Bank and is a FY15 Co-Chair in Youth2Youth Steering Committee. She is eager to have her colleagues and co-chairs in the Y2Y and youth join this Development Discussion on Youth Unemployment.

Mphatso: “The secret message communicated to most young people today by the society around them is that they are not needed, that the society will run itself quite nicely until they - at some distant point in the future - will take over the reins. Yet the fact is that the society is not running itself nicely... because the rest of us need all the energy, brains, imagination and talent that young people can bring to bear down on our difficulties.”

- Alvin Toffler

The secret message is not so secret anymore; youth are needed, society is facing multifaceted challenges that have never been seen before. Tackling youth unemployment in a sustainable and engaging way  is a crucial step to creating real social impact now and in the future. Those who actively seek employment deserve avenues and spaces to reach it. Tools for success encompass a good foundation, leadership, collaboration, pro-active engagement, access to education and guidance, mentorship and finally responsibility. Tackling youth unemployment means accepting the responsibility to proactively engage youth and come up with solutions to build a better tomorrow today from all parties involved. 
Across the world, countries have lacked in investing in youth employment initiatives. This means more economic disparities, prolonged poverty, exacerbated fragility and conflict, less access to good health services, gender disparities and social instability in this ever fragile world for millions of young people and generations to follow.

Youth unemployment is not only costs governments billions of dollars every year, but more importantly it is damaging the minds of the youth.

As millions of youth go to bed every night and wonder “what’s next?” it is imperative to outline that without guidance, leadership, collective strategy, social energy, backing and support, environmental and developmental sustainability not only will we always wonder ‘what’s next’, but also be faced with “how did we get here.” I believe that last question is already facing us  today.

Engage Youth communities 

Public, private, and philanthropic partners must engage the young and disfranchised not only in this discussion, but in their boardrooms and activities, in order to affirm sustainable action. Investment in youth is the incentive. In turn, youth must also take action and lend a hand in leading the discussion to ensure that not only are our voices are being heard, but that we too have a say in what the future must look like. Everyone is important.

That is why the World Bank Group’s Youth to Youth Community (Y2Y), a multifaceted network of young professionals remains dedicated to engaging, inspiring, and empowering young people in international development by combining networking and knowledge sharing events, the Youth Innovation Fund (YIF), which supports innovative solutions to crucial development challenges, and a mentorship program is one such program. Through its programs, it engages youth from all parts of the WBG so that we can be empowered as we embark on our careers to help eradicate extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity.

This is not just another cause. This is about life. A chance at life for tomorrow, that was better than today, for millions of young men and women through employment so that we too can build on our dreams.

Tackling youth unemployment means that millions will have a golden chance at life to proactively engage, serve humanity, live a dignified life, and be responsible.

Let’s discuss.

New Question
What evidence of success (or failure) exists regarding jobs for youth interventions?