UN World Youth Report




Conclusions and Recommendations



The United Nations e-discussion on youth employment held from 11 October to 7 November received approximately 1,100 comments from young people around the world.

Their contributions addressed various aspects of overcoming challenges to finding decent work, better aligning educational systems and skills development with labour market needs, as well as the social implications of employment trends on the lives of young people.

Many young people shared common key employment concerns. Participants questioned the quality of education they and their peers receive: whether or not it is relevant to available jobs, how their knowledge and skills will serve them in the long-term, and the extent to which decision-makers are committed to needed investment in the potential of young people. They are frustrated by high rates of unemployment, which is causing many youth to rely on volunteerism in order to gain experience, and even affecting students who are unable to find part-time work to help support their studies. Young women in particular confront barriers to employment, including job segregation and salary discrimination. When young people do obtain jobs, they often involve poor wages as well as working conditions, including long hours, insecurity and a lack of health and other benefits, which do not allow them to be independent and provide for family. Moreover, although some young people shared positive views of accessing job opportunities through migration, many reported growing concern that in order to secure even low-level jobs, they would have to leave their homes and families.

Throughout the progression of the four-week e-discussion, young people’s comments reflected the full spectrum of negative and positive outlooks. They exhibited considerable energy and enthusiasm not only by focusing on obstacles to full and decent employment, but also by using the platform as a motivational space to encourage others and share good practices and success stories on how to go about securing productive and decent work. Although some participants expressed little or no optimism regarding the state of youth employment, several seemed to succeed in inspiring hope in others.

Chapter II revealed that young people view many higher educational systems and institutions as inadequately tailored to the actual dynamic needs of the labour market. They reported that formal education curricula are often overly theoretical, leaving students feeling ill-prepared and lacking the necessary practical skills for the labour force. Some students consequently delay their entry into the job market to continue their studies or seek out low-level jobs. More and better linkages are therefore needed between learning institutions and employers. Young people further pointed out a gap in quality between private and public educational institutions that provides graduates of private schools with a competitive advantage in the labour market.

Young people shared more positive views of non-formal education, which they believe can both complement formal education with important distinct skills and also serve as an important resource for youth without access to formal education. Participants further attached value to vocational education as a means for job preparedness, though found inadequate opportunities to access it and expressed concern about how likely it is to lead to decent work. On the whole, young people additionally felt that internships and volunteerism offer opportunities to develop life skills and improve employment prospects, including in entrepreneurship.

Chapter II highlighted two key messages for young people’s job preparedness. The first was that leadership qualities must be developed among youth not only to foster empowerment, but also to fuel innovative solutions to youth employment challenges. The second was the need to encourage young people to be proactive in pursuing their livelihood aspirations.

Chapter III revealed that young people are finding and making use of a range of tools, where available, to help them find jobs, with formal and informal business and social network proving to be the most valuable sources of career information and guidance. The majority of participants were either unemployed, still completing their educational programmes, performing unpaid or part-time work, working on short-term contracts or in “small jobs,” or engaged in several of these activities. Amidst widespread unemployment and in order to gain work experience, some are either engaged in internship programmes or volunteer positions. A point that emerged strongly from the e-discussion was that young people prefer to be active rather than to “sit around”; they bear the conditions of underemployment in the belief that their perseverance, experience and enthusiasm will be rewarded in the future.

Participants identified emerging opportunities for youth employment in new types of jobs in the fields of information and communication technologies (ITCs), social networking and environmental sustainability (“green jobs”). Many young people reported that their ideal job is to work in – or to create – green jobs for the future. There was no clear consensus as to whether globalization (as represented by such factors as use of ICTs or working abroad, etc.) is, in general, favorable or not, as participants recognized both advantages and disadvantages. However, there was broad agreement that self-motivation, dedication, patience and a positive outlook are key elements of successful job searching.

Chapter IV underscored that a decent job is a marker of adulthood, independence and active citizenship. Yet the lack of decent jobs today is hindering this period of transition for young people and their future economic participation. Young people shared their concerns about gaps in access to decent work, particularly amidst the economic crisis. Participants expressed worries related to job insecurity, citing the prevalence of short-term contracts; low wages, amidst rising costs of living; difficulties in obtaining adequate practical work experience, with some youth calling for such requirements in educational institutions; few opportunities for workplace advancement; debts, including student loans; and family well-being.

Young people identified the creation of small- and medium-sized enterprises as an important and effective means to overcome high unemployment rates and poor working conditions. In fact, the majority of participants noted a growing number of young entrepreneurs starting their own businesses – some out of choice and others due to a lack of other employment options – with many examples of success and promise, including in social entrepreneurship. However, young people also noted that practical information and guidance on entrepreneurial initiatives as well as financing opportunities are often difficult for them to access.

Chapter IV asserted that, despite the current youth employment challenge, most young people are makers rather than breakers. Although many youth conveyed a lack of confidence in their futures, there remains – nonetheless – hope.

Societies cannot afford to neglect young people and their skills, knowledge, energy and potential. They cannot expect young people to study hard and word hard as the traditional means to decent work and success, amidst diminishing evidence of its effectiveness. Young people require financial and social investments to fulfill their potential, to transition into adulthood and to be active and engaged citizens. Decent jobs not only contribute to young people’s lifetime employment success, they have a proven multiplier effect on family well-being, the health of national economies and societies at large.

We thank Navjot K. for sharing these concluding words on behalf of youth: “We want to make a difference. We want a chance to work. We want to prove ourselves.”



[These are reproduced from each week’s/chapter’s Vote Corner: click to open the results/recommendations]

Based on the conclusions the main recommendations are…

[From Chapter II]

In addition to the above, several other recommendations were proposed. Most notably:

The majority agreed there is a need to improve the quality of education and to make it accessible to all young people. This requires tailoring curricula more effectively to the labour market, including through the development of practical skills (proposed by Muhamad, 20, with the Asian Law Students Association).

Mechanisms should be put in place by Governments in partnership with the private sector; so that institutions are supporting internships and vocational training at scale and in a broad range of disciplines.

Vocational training, apprenticeships and non-formal education should be more widely recognized by employers as valuable components of a rounded education, which in turn would increase candidates’ employment credentials and contribute towards a more stable labour market.

All Governments should provide spaces for young people to share their views and discuss the issues they face with regard to education and employment (Yasmyn, 24, from Guadeloupe).

Governments and the private sector should ensure that information is widely available to all segments of the youth population and support those social groups which experience the most difficulties in accessing and completing education, such as young people living in extreme poverty and in rural locations, young women and youth with disabilities.

Yanira, 29, from Mexico suggested the following:

“1.) I recommend that before graduating from university, the Government should assist with internship programmes at prestigious companies, whereby youth can acquire responsibilities and increase their competitive qualities.

2.) According to the labour market, the Government should create a fund to train young leaders in all of the main national educational institutions. They would promote the scheme internationally as well.

3.) Design a strategy between Governments and students, in which young people demonstrate their capabilities through community service, applying their knowledge in other countries, and empowering them to develop their team skills – preparing them for a working life.”


[From Chapter III]

Joe, 24, from the United Kingdom, who has never been unemployed, explained how he had spent months working to help his friends find jobs: by improving their CVs, giving interview advice and organizing interviews. Four of his friends have now secured jobs. He stated: “Your friends with jobs have knowledge about the process. Get that knowledge. If you have a job, share your knowledge with others.”


[From Chapter IV]

Vote corner 5) If you were the Chief Executive of a large foundation, where would you spend your money in order to increase and improve youth employment, both within and beyond your organization?

Shruti, 24, from Mumbai, India, said that if she was a Chief Executive, she would invest within her organization “in building youth ambassadors…who have been-there-done-that and can prove a good role model for the students/youth outside my organization. [Each of] these youth ambassadors would be responsible for mentoring at least one underprivileged young person.”

Karuna, 23, also from India said that she would create a paid internship programme for fresh graduates within her organization. “Paid internships can help with both a decent income and experience. Outside the organization, I would promote corporate social responsibility strategies and create capacity-building and skills development courses and workshops for young people.”

Several of the other recommendations included:

Invest in social businesses led by and focused on employing young people

Invest money in improving community relations and employment opportunities for young graduates

Provide field-specific scholarships for college and university students

Invest in a strong internship programme that would recruit new graduates to work for my company for an extended period of time; for example, the Ontario government has a highly selective and popular two-year internship programme, after which young people get to work with Ontario Ministries (Canada)

Create a pool of funds to invest in young entrepreneurs

Align scholarship opportunities to communities; decentralize opportunities to universities or private businesses and allow them to select the candidates

Invest in information and communication technologies and provide leadership opportunities to young people through trainings in the private and non-profit sectors

Design features:

Include a widget of IYY facebook and twitter pages, i.e. live rolling comments.

Resources available on the side of the page:

Information on youth participation in creating national action plans from “Review of national action plans on youth employment: putting commitment into action” (United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 2007):

“In some countries efforts are underway to create ‘a space at the table’ for youth participation in the decision-making processes through formal mechanisms such as youth advisory groups or the creation of a youth ‘seat’ in national coordinating structures designing and implementing [national action plans] NAPs. It is evident that some Governments are meeting their commitment to involve youth in the development of National Action Plans, but significantly more effort must be made not only to promote youth employment as a central development issue for Member States, but also to ensure the active involvement of youth and youth organizations in policy development at all levels” (p. 23).

For a country case study on the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) (Youth Employment Network):


“[The Youth Employment Network] YEN-DRC and YWCA continued to lobby the government for accession to the YEN. On May 22, 2005, our cries were finally heard when the President signed a letter to the UN Secretary-General requesting our country to become a YEN Lead Country.

Since that time I have been heavily involved in the drafting of DRC’s [National Action Plan] NAP on Youth Employment including the coordination of the Youth Consultative Group. The Youth Consultative Group is responsible for youth inputs on the NAP development process alongside the Government, [the United Nations Development Programme] UNDP and [the International Labour Organization] ILO.”

Youth Employment Inventory (YEI) - information on youth employment interventions around the world:


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The UN Focal Point on Youth aims to build awareness of the global situation of young people, as well as promote their rights and aspirations, working toward greater participation of young people in decision-making as a means for achieving peace and development.

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