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Tackling youth unemployment through life skills, financial and entrepreneurial education

Posted in Blogs on July 15, 2021

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 womenTackling 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. 

“Lifelong learning encompasses formal and informal learning from early childhood and basic education through to adult learning, combining foundational skills, social and cognitive skills (such as learning to learn) and the skills needed for specific jobs, occupations or sectors.” — ILO, 2019

The idea behind lifelong learning is that young people need more than just employment programmes- there is a need to develop capabilities that will contribute positively to a young person’s participation in the labour market and society in general. This means that investment in learning should:  

1) start at an early age and;

2) focus on life skills alongside employability skills 

Research shows that young people acquire relevant skills during their adolescence that helps them increase the likelihood of positive outcomes, leading to socio-economic empowerment. Ideally, schools and universities should be tailored to the needs of young people and developing their skills. For instance, courses on spending and saving are crucial to a young person entering the labour market for the first time. Unfortunately, these courses are most often not integrated into the curriculum. 


Where does Aflatoun come in?  

Based on the need for inclusive and responsive youth employment programming, Aflatoun International has developed curricula that aims at building social, financial and life skills among various age groups of children and young people. The participant- centred approach and active learning pedagogy used in the curricula seeks to engage participants and have them at the centre of their own education and empowerment journey.   

Aflatoun has several programmes targeted at different age groups, the latest one being AflaYouthThe AflaYouth programme was created in collaboration with Aflatoun’s global network, adopting an innovative approach build around three domains: social and financial domain, entrepreneurship domain and employability domain. The programme encourages participants to consider their future opportunities and inspires them to become positive agents of change in their community. Being part of the AflaYouth programme participants are inspired, informed, engaged, coached and assisted to start a private enterprise or achieve gainful employment. 


Impact on the ground  

Understanding the needs, opportunities and access of young people in their context is essential for programme sustainability and impact. To ensure the long-lasting effects and impact of the programmes, Aflatoun works in collaboration with its network of over 300 global partners to evaluate the programmes on the ground.  

Evidence has proven the impact of Aflatoun’s programmes on the ground. Evaluations of Aflatoun’s life-skills-based Social and Financial Education programme in Rwanda and India showed significant positive effect on students’ self-efficacy, savings behaviour, and financial confidence and competence. 

Based on 27 quantitative, qualitative and process-focused studies across 20 countries*, the research indicates that when youth participate in a well-delivered, contextualised Aflatoun programme for teenagers, they:  

 (1) Improve their planning skills, including improving the extent to which they think about the future, anticipate future consequences and plan before acting;  

(2) Become more accepting of diversity and equitable gender roles, thus demonstrating their increased knowledge of rights awareness;  

(3) Improve their personal skills, including their self-confidence;  

(4) Improve their financial skills in terms of savings and spending behaviour: they save more money and spend money more wisely; and   

(5) Improve their entrepreneurial skills, gaining self-confidence in their entrepreneurial ability, and engaging in more entrepreneurial activities than before completing the programme. 


To build upon the encouraging existing evidence, Aflatoun is continuing to evaluate its programmes on the ground. New rigorous studies are being conducted to understand best practices and inform the adaptation or improvement of the existing content to successfully meet the needs of participants.  

With the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever to tackle youth unemployment and equip young people with the necessary tools to succeed in the labour market and become socio-economically empowered. Aflatoun and our partners are committed to socially and economically empowering youth around the world to fulfil their potential. 


*This evidence is a broad overview on the effectiveness of programmes on the ground. It was based on multiple impact evaluation studies conducted by Aflatoun. If you’re interested in reading some of the impact evaluation studies on our curricula, please find them here: 

India Factsheet

Burkina Faso Factsheet

Global Evidence Brief (2018)  

Quote: International Labour Organization (2019). Work for a brighter future. https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—dgreports/—cabinet/documents/publication/wcms_662410.pdf 


Author: Ashmi Krishnan