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Youth employment for inclusive development

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Global Employment Trends for Youth 2015: Scaling up investments in decent jobs for youth
Published by International Labour Organization
(ILO), 2015
Pages 98, ISBN

Young people are the most strong, self-confident, creative and productive guiding force of any nation. There is an increasing evidence base to show that investing in youth, and more specifically productive employment of (and for) youth, is vital for economic growth and inclusive development of a country. In other words, youth employment touches on all aspects of growth and development. A happy youth is one faced with exciting options for the future. The better we drive youths towards productive employment, the better our hopes for bolstering the positive spirit of young people and making progress toward the broader framework of inclusive development.
The ILO publication Global Employment Trends for Youth 2015 provides an update on youth labour markets around the world, focusing both on the continuing labour market instability and on structural issues in youth labour markets. The report is divided into five chapters. The introductory chapter provides an overview of youth labour market trends as well as the key issues for a continued policy focus on investments to promote youth employment. In all countries, youths aspire to get productive, formal employment opportunities that provide them with a decent wage, relative security and good conditions of work. Unfortunately, far too few youths are able to match their aspirations to reality, which means that opportunities to benefit from the demographic dividend in the countries with the greatest potential - principally in Africa - are quickly slipping away.
Chapter 2 discusses the youth labour markets at the global and regional levels, with a particular focus on trends toward declining labour force participation and employment shares among youths and diversity in unemployment outcomes. At the global level, there has been a significant decrease in the share of youth who are either employed or unemployed (the labour force participation rate, LFPR). Between 1991 and 2014, the youth LFPR declined by 11.6 percentage points (from 59.0 to 47.3 per cent) compared to a 1 percentage point decline in the adult LFPR. In terms of volume, the youth labour force decreased by 29.9 million over the period, while the youth population grew by 185 million. After a period of rapid increase between 2007 and 2010, the global youth unemployment rate settled at 13.0 per cent for the period 2012-14 and is expected to increase only slightly to 13.1 per cent in 2015. Gender differentials in youth unemployment rates are small at the global level and in most regions. However, young females are still comparatively disadvantaged in the job search in Latin America and the Caribbean and sub-Saharan Africa, although to a lesser degree than in the Middle East and North Africa.
Chapter 3 addresses youth employment as an issue of economic development, with emphasis on the quantitative and qualitative changes that can occur when labour market institutions are strengthened to promote greater regularity of employment.
The chapter also looks at the trends toward declining yet still prominent working poverty rates among youth, persistent underutilisation of young labour engaged in irregular work and skills mismatch. It also explores the concept of non-standard employment according to the context of developed or developing economies. Regardless of improvements in educational enrolment, millions of youth in low-income countries are still taking up employment at early ages. Early labour participation goes hand in hand with early school leaving and low levels of educational attainment. With decreasing levels of absolute poverty and increasing levels of education, young people are less motivated to accept certain unattractive jobs at the bottom end of increasingly segmented labour markets. In other words, it could be said that as middle classes grow and more countries approach the middle-income ranking, more young people can afford not to work, at least for a limited period of time. Rather than accept any job, higher education graduates from middle-income backgrounds can show a certain degree of selectivity.
Chapter 4 examines the increasingly complex labour market transition of youths. The labour market transition of young people concerns not only the length of time between their exit from education (either upon graduation or early exit without completion) to their first entry into any job, but also qualitative elements, such as whether this job is stable, thus allowing for other transition processes such as starting a family.  
A vast majority of today's youths remain without access to a stable job that could bring them a secure prosperity from which to base the next stage of transition, which is adulthood and family-building. Rather, in the lower-income countries adulthood and family formation arrive without having attained the stage of productive employment. In high-income countries where the expectation of productive employment and belief in the linearity of transition stages is stronger, there is an increasing trend to postpone family formation well into adulthood when the productive jobs prove to be non-forthcoming.
Chapter 5 turns the attention to policy options for investing in youth employment.
The main implications for policies and programmes to promote decent jobs for youth that have been highlighted in the concluding chapter can be summarised as follows: 1) Strategies to promote youth employment should articulate the mix and interaction of macroeconomic policies, labour and employment policies and other interventions specifically targeting young people, particularly the most disadvantaged. 2) Policies that offer fiscal incentives, support the development of infrastructure and develop enabling regulations for enterprises operating in sectors with high employment potential can help improve youth employment outcomes.  3) The positive effect of public investment in youth employment can be maximised by ensuring that young workers have the right skills and are supported in the job matching. In this sense, linking investment in infrastructure with labour market policies would boost both quantity and quality of jobs for youth. 4) Comprehensive packages of active labour market policies that target disadvantaged youths can help in the school-to-work transition. 5) An increase in public investment, social benefits and active labour market policies has an impact on youth employment, particularly in terms of labour market participation. Evidence shows that public spending on labour market policies is associated with significantly higher youth employment-to-population ratios. 6) Specific policies and targeted interventions to support the transition of young workers to the formal economy yield better results if designed as part of macroeconomic policies and include interventions to improve legal and administrative requirements for entrepreneurial activity, reforms to advance the quality of youth employment through access to rights at work, better working conditions and social protection. 7) Coordinated responses and partnerships are required to scale up policies and strategies that have had an impact on the quantity and quality of jobs for young people.
Creating jobs for both young women and men entering the labour market every year is a critical component in the path towards economic growth as well as inclusive development. As mentioned in this publication, it is not only the quantity but also the quality of jobs that matters. Scaling up investments in decent jobs for youth is the best way to ensure that young people can realise their aspirations, improve their living conditions and actively participate in society.

The writer is an independent researcher.
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