Developing Nations’ Youth Employment: Informal, Underpaid, Unemployed

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ILO News– Two thirds of working age youth in some developing countries are either unemployed or trapped in low-quality jobs, according to the ILO Global Employment Trends for Youth 2013 report.

In six of the ten countries surveyed, more than 60% of young people are either unemployed, working but in low quality, irregular, low wage jobs, often in the informal economy. Many are NEEPs – neither in the labor force nor in education or training. In Liberia, Malawi and Togo, the figure exceeds 70%.

globalemploymenttrends“The waste of economic potential in developing economies is staggering,” says Sara Elder, co-author of the report and research specialist for the ILO Youth Employment Program. “For an overwhelming number of young people this means a job does not necessarily equal a livelihood.”

The school-to-work transition surveys go beyond regular labor force surveys to look at issues such as non-standard employment and labor underutilization, job quality, job satisfaction and transitions of young people to and within the labor market.

“The survey’s analytical framework has been built around disaggregated and nuanced indicators that highlight the specific labor market challenges of young people in developing economies,” said José M. Salazar-Xirinachs, ILO assistant director general for policy.

The surveys also show that when unemployment counts those who are not actively looking for work, the unemployment rate is much higher than published figures suggest.

For example, in Liberia, Malawi, Togo and Peru, the unemployment rate is more than double what published figures show.

Making the move from school to work in Malawi and Zambia

In some developing economies, unemployment can impact up to one-quarter of the youth population. Yet, these young people have no access to social protection.

At the same time, those who are employed tend to work in the informal sector and receive low wages. In Cambodia, Liberia, Malawi and Peru, more than 80% of youth employment is in the informal economy and two thirds of working youth are poorly paid.

Youth Employment: The Labor Market Conundrum

“The fewer young people in decent and productive work, the less economic growth there is; the less employment growth there is, the fewer the opportunities to get youth into productive work,” Elder says.

Around 88 million of the world’s child laborers are young girls under 18,. The first International Day of the Girl Child is 11 October 2012

Around 88 million of the world’s child laborers are young girls under 18

“Such is the conundrum of labor markets in developing economies. Universal quality education and training, as well as infrastructure development and responsible governance are needed to break the cycle,” she added.

According to the report, “in developing economies, educational levels have increased but are still quite low, with only small proportions attaining a secondary education qualification.”

In Cambodia, for example, 62% of young people complete primary level education, another 34% go on to complete secondary education and only 4% achieve a university degree.

“The report is a call-to-action to equip young people with skills that meet the needs of employers,” said Reeta Roy, president and CEO of The MasterCard Foundation, which partnered with the ILO in the development of the new surveys. “The private sector, educators, and governments will need to collaborate to help young people secure stable employment”.

Youth Employment: Low Job Quality But High Job Satisfaction

In developing countries, job satisfaction is surprisingly high, despite low job quality – an indication of the sheer absence of decent work opportunities that forces young people to accept any type of employment.

“Apparently, it takes a lot to make a young person in developing economies express dissatisfaction with a job. In fact, the seeming contradiction of a young person working in a job that brings little in terms of monetary reward, stability and security claiming job satisfaction, is likely to be a reflection of the optimism of youth and the ability to adapt to realities where so few ‘good’ jobs exist,” the report says.

The Work4Youth project
The surveys on school-to-work transition are a core product of the ILO’s Work4Youth (W4Y) project, which is a partnership with The MasterCard Foundation. The project aims to provide more and better labor market information to support the development of policies and programs specific to youth.


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