Youth Employment & Entrepreneurship

Almost 88 percent of the world’s 1.2 billion youth live in developing countries. Young people also represent approximately one quarter of the working poor worldwide –  in Africa, over 70 percent of them liveon or below the poverty line. Lack of sustainable, profitable employment opportunities for youth, including those living in rural areas, can trigger a vicious circle of low economic growth, deep frustration, social instability, and increased insecurity, whilst also fuelling international migration flows which are contributing to dramatic political changes in developed countries. Instead, targeted youth development policies and measures can help governments and the private sector leverage the extraordinary economic potential of young people.

In rural areas, agribusiness development presents unique income opportunities for young people who possess an entrepreneurial attitude, and who do not intend to migrate to urban zones. However, innovative approaches need to be pursued as traditional agriculture can be often unattractive to rural youth. In this sense, our experience has shown that young agri-entrepreneurs can thrive on agribusiness models that rely on integrated production processes, environmental-friendly practices, extensive use of ICT, and a full range of complementary services including land, finance, agro-processing, packaging, distribution, and marketing support. In parallel with this, targeted efforts are generally required to build the capacity of young people and their associations, and to ensure that they enjoy increased voice & agency in relevant policy-making processes. Finally, in-depth research and extensive policy dialogue are typically needed to help Government refine their youth targeting strategies, and to promote youth-friendly changes in policies regulating youth access to land and finance.

Beyond agribusiness development, our experience shows that wage employment can often be a desirable option for young people not interested in entrepreneurship, both in rural and urban areas. In this case, tailored measures are generally needed both on the demand- and supply-side of labour markets – these would be aimed at ensuring that, on the one hand, young people acquire the right skills and competences, and on the other hand that their prospective employers are willing to hire them. Such measures can include, among others, targeted support to technical and vocational training centres, partnership arrangements between private sector and public institutions, and joint design of training curricula, as well as regular firm tours, mandatory apprenticeships, and ongoing on-the-job training. In addition, appropriate incentives need to be provided to employers in order for them to retain apprentices – among others, those can include mandatory clauses in apprenticeship contracts, cost-sharing arrangements to cover for the salaries of newly-hired youth, and ad-hoc tax schemes to lower fiscal pressure on participating firms.