Empowering young people with education and employment is key to achieving the Global Goals. Having recognised this, governments and organisations across the globe are focused on employment generation programming and skill development. Why are employability skills and work necessary in the first place? Work enables an individual to escape poverty and build a decent life, and contributes to building a sense of identity. Employability is about having the necessary skills to navigate through a career. Unfortunately, global youth unemployment numbers have continued to be high with an estimate of over 621 million young people aged 15-24 years who are not in education, employment or training. Labour force participation among young people (aged 15-24) already declined by 71 million between 1999 and 2019 and, with the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, numbers for 2021 are expected to be even lower. Whilst the global youth unemployment rate is 13.6 percent, regional variation should be considered as well. Northern Africa, for instance, has a youth unemployment rate of 30 percent but in many subregions, it is disproportionately higher amongst young women. Tackling youth unemployment requires long-term solutions that focus on the socio-economic empowerment of young people.
Lifelong learning: skill-building for future generations
Many young people (aged 15-24 years) currently lack the skills required to prepare them for entering the labour market. They are three times as likely as adults aged 25 years and older to be unemployed. To help kickstart young people’s careers, governments and other institutions have focused on implementing short-term employment programmes focused on career awareness and targeted at making young people more attractive to hiring firms. However, impact evaluations of employment programmes for young people in developing countries show that these have had limited success. Two-thirds had no effect at all, and, in most cases, the initial effect disappeared after two to three years. Whilst these programmes are necessary, they do not seem to be sufficient in tackling unemployment issues as they are not long-term solutions. According to the ILO, a long-term solution requires increasing investment in people’s capabilities through lifelong learning.