| 500 million young women and men will enter the workforce within the next decade. While rapid globalisation and technological change offer new opportunities for productive work and incomes for the lucky few, for many working age young people, these trends only increase the vulnerability inherent in the transition from childhood to adulthood. Across the planet, millions of young women and men are failing to gain an entry into the workforce, and the disadvantage suffered by young women is greater. The vast majority of jobs available to youth are low paid, insecure, and with few benefits or prospects for advancement.
A generation without the hope of stable employment is a burden for all of society. Poor employment in the early stages of a young person’s career can harm job prospects for life. Underemployed or unemployed youth will have less to spend as consumers or to save and invest, which will hurt employers and economies. The economic investment of governments in education and training will be wasted if young people do not move into productive jobs that enable them to pay taxes and support public services. Young women and men who find themselves alienated from society, frustrated by lack of opportunity and without means are sometimes are more vulnerable to involvement with illegal and criminal activities and are at risk of recruitment by armed groups.
Promoting Employability by Improving Knowledge and Skills
In the world today, too many women and men lack the necessary education and relevant training for good, productive jobs. Too many jobs are unproductive and poorly paid. Education begins with literacy and, despite vast improvement, there is still a huge literacy gap. In many countries, training remains largely unrelated to labour market needs. School dropouts are high amongst disadvantaged youth. It is time to break the vicious circle of poor education and training, poor jobs and poverty. All countries need to review, rethink and re-orient their education, vocational training and labour market policies to facilitate the school-to work transition and to give young women and men - particularly those who are disadvantaged because of disabilities or who face discrimination because of race, religion or ethnicity - a head start in working life. Young women and men also need a set of “core work skills” such as communication, problem solving and teamwork skills to develop their employability and prepare them for work in the knowledge and skills based society.
In the national action plans the following areas need particular attention:
Government responsibility: In its Resolution on Promoting Youth Employment, the international community recognized that Governments have a primary responsibility to educate young women and men, to ensure equal access to all youth living in their country and to create an enabling environment that will promote youth employment.
Investment in education and training: Each country should set objectives and targets based on best practice/best performance for investment in education and training and other employability strengthening measures, leading to jobs and social justice for the young.
Education/training: To start a business a young person needs both entrepreneurial and vocational skills. Any vocational skills course should have entrepreneurial and business skills as part of the core content.
Finance: One of the strongest stimulants to encourage young women and men to become entrepreneurs is to ensure they can easily access seed funds for their business ideas. They need space to try out their ideas, prove their talents and learn through experience before they enter the mainstream economy. Youth business funding must be seen as a distinctive mechanism to help young people into employment.
Business Support: The more support a young entrepreneur can receive in the first years of activity, the better his or her chances of creating a sustainable business or of becoming more employable. Business people should be encouraged to support young entrepreneurs during the critical first years of their new business by transferring their knowledge, experience and contacts. They can do so by mentoring, including them in their networks, bringing the youth business into their supply chains or providing pro-bono advice and training.
Micro and small enterprises in conflict contexts: In conflict affected countries the labour market has often changed completely in a relatively short period. Industries and key-enterprises were closed and often looted. Mines might have made large parts of fertile land unusable, communities are cut of from markets, import and export possibilities are limited and tourist industries are closed down for a long period. SMEs are often the first target of armed groups in terms of looting and destruction. The successful reintegration of ex-combatants is a key factor for the stability of post-conflict countries. The capacity of countries emerging out of conflict to create employment opportunities is limited. Employment creation through private sector initiatives in the form of micro and small enterprises and cooperatives should, therefore, to be the main focus in the development and management of special youth programmes, including those for ex-combatants, refugees and youth with disabilities.
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