Youth Employment- FAO Report

Sharing from the Food Agriculture Organization (FAO) on Youth Employment.

Youth Employment

The United Nations defines ‘youth’ as persons between the ages of 15 and 24 years as agreed during preparations for the International Youth Year (1985), and endorsed by the General Assembly (see A/36/215 and resolution 36/28, 1981). Care should be taken to distinguish between the concepts of ‘child’ and ‘youth’. Children are those persons under the age of 14; it is, however, worth noting that Article 1 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child defines ‘children’ as persons up to the age of 18. This was intentional, as it was hoped that the Convention would provide protection and rights to as large an age-group as possible and because there was no similar United Nations Convention on the Rights of Youth. When dealing with youth employment, ‘youth’ includes those persons between the minimum age at which work is allowed, according to national laws, and 24 years. It is estimated that this group makes up 18 percent of the global population (2006) and 25 percent of the total working age population. The majority (almost 85 percent) of the world’s youth live in developing countries, with approximately 60 percent in Asia and 23 percent in the developing regions of Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean. By 2025, the number of youth living in developing countries will grow to 89.5 percent (UNDESA 2006, World Population Prospects).
Around 88.2 million young women and men are unemployed throughout the world, accounting for 47 percent of the 185.9 million unemployed persons globally (ILO 2006). In addition, an estimated 400 million youth worldwide – or about one third of all youth aged 15 to 24 – suffer from a deficit of decent work opportunities. The vast majority of jobs available to youth are low paid, insecure, and with few benefits or prospects for advancement. Around 25 percent of the youth population works, but lives on less than the equivalent of US$ 2 per day (UNDP-Spain MDGF, 2007).
In addition, youths are vulnerable and their interests are not protected as they often lack or have difficult access to trade unions or financial support services. ILO estimates that 93 percent of the jobs currently available to young people in developing countries are in the informal economy: earnings are low, working conditions are unsafe and there is little or no access to social protection. The UN General Assembly Resolution A/RES/57/165 (December 2002) on Promoting Youth Employment “Encourages Member States to prepare national reviews and action plans on youth employment and to involve youth organizations and young people in this process”.
The lack of decent employment opportunities is particularly severe for young girls; policies implementation is a key factor in this regard. The Commission on the Status of Women always requests national Governments to implement its recommendations, therefore, implement better policies at the national level taking into account the gender dimension. It is also necessary to eliminate discrimination in training for employment and the development of skills. Policies must ensure that young girls have the opportunity to enter the job market as equally as young boys. Indigenous youth, lacking work opportunities in their long-held territories, also face specific vulnerabilities when seeking employment in other areas.
Around 85 percent of the 500 million people who will become of working age in the next decade live in developing countries. The developing world’s youth is the next generation of economic and social actors. They are powerful agents of change and sources of ideas and solutions for sustainable development. This situation presents the world with an unprecedented opportunity to invest in youth to accelerate growth and reduce poverty.
The promotion of decent work for the youth can prevent child labour (where children are defined as all persons up to the age of 18). A great difference can be made especially regarding the elimination of the worst forms of child labour – which involves approximately 52 millions of youths-children aged 15-17, many of them working in the agricultural sector, according to ILO estimates -  by ensuring that this age group is only involved in activities that are appropriate for its age (ILO Convention 182). According to ILO a lack of decent work, if experienced at an early age, often permanently compromises a person’s future employment prospects and can trap youth in a vicious cycle of poverty and social exclusion.

Decent youth employment is targeted in the Millennium Development Goals (Goal 1, target 1.B). Under the impetus of the Millennium Declaration in 2001, the Youth Employment Network (YEN)was created by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the World Bank (WB) and the United Nations (UN) to "develop and implement strategies that give young people everywhere a real chance to find decent and productive work". The work of the YEN has been strengthened by a series of UN General Assembly Resolutions which encourage member states to develop a comprehensive approach to youth employment. A Guide was published in 2008, which provides a framework for the development of National Action Plans on Youth Employment (NAPs).

Youth employment in agriculture

 In sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, up to 70 percent of youth live in rural areas and half the youth population entering the labour force work in agriculture (IFAD, 2007). However, rural areas are losing the young productive workforce, due to consistent rural-urban migration and the spread of HIV and AIDS, which affects a vast majority of infected people in the prime of their working lives.
FAO and ILO are committed to the promotion of youth employment, which is to provide all young people in the developing countries with sufficient opportunities to obtain decent and productive work in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity, and to achieve a working life that makes full use of their talents, abilities and aspirations. Creation of youth employment in agriculture could help reduce the worst forms of child labour, promote rural employment and development, and help reduce poverty by raising incomes.
Particular emphasis should be given to the dissemination of affordable and relevant opportunites of appropriate education, training, and professional development. Technical and vocational education trainings should be provided to prepare youths for employment, through the acquisition of skills, knowledge and attitudes needed to develop professional careers and enter the world of work as active citizens. FAO and ILO together with UNESCO have recently published the report “Addressing Challenges and Opportunities for Rural Youth Employment”, based on a joint study undertaken in Asia.

Shared policy goals

 FAO and ILO shared policy goals for youth employment include the following:
  • Mainstream youth as a priority group that require special focus and targeted development policies and programmes.
  • Ensure that all major development policies, programmes and investments are planned in consultation with young people, taking full account of their views and needs and of the possible impacts on them.
  • Involve young men and women in rural and agricultural policy and decision-making at the community, national and international levels.
  • Provide rural youth with appropriate educational, informal training and volunteering programmes that value agriculture and rural life and equip young people for mixed rural-urban livelihoods.
  • Facilitate the entry of youth into formal jobs by providing apprenticeships and training programmes, and including young people who lack formal education.
  • Provide rural youth, particularly women, with access to land and the financial services that are available to adults.

Youth employment programme activities

Many initiatives aimed at promoting decent youth employment with the technical support of FAO and ILO are presently on-going in various countries of the world.
In Malawi, a two-year UNJP on Youth Employment and Empowerment has been recently launched in order to provide concrete employment opportunities to rural youths in 4 districts of Malawi.
In Mozambique within the Promotion of Youth Employment UNJP, seven UN agencies have committed to support Mozambique in strengthening its capacity to promote decent work by contributing to the improvement of the employability of young women and men, reducing their risks and vulnerabilities as they enter the labour market, and enhancing their prospects for income-generation and decent employment.
In Sudan, the UNJP Creating Opportunities for Youth Employment in Sudan (MDGF-1888)  has been launched in order to provide skill development and livelihood opportunities to the youth with a focus on returnees and demobilised soldiers, while supporting youth employment mainstreaming in national development frameworks.
In Nepal the UNJP Jobs for Peace has been launched in 2008 to contribute to national peace building and poverty reduction through employment and empowerment of youths. The project will also promote the peaceful gathering of young people and communities through business development and social development activities, facilitating communication and interchange and strengthening the peace building process.
In Tunisia, the UNJP Engaging Tunisian Youth to Achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGF-1930) has started in 2009 in order to develop and enhance regional capacities in migration-prone areas, through the sustainable creation of decent jobs and the promotion of local competencies.
In Honduras, a three-year UNJP on Human Development for Youth: Overcoming the Challenges of Migration through Employment (MDGF-1926), has started in 2009 in order to to increase the capabilities of vulnerable young men and women between 15 and 29 years of age at high risk of migration for labour market integration. Specifically, the programme aims at creating decent entrepreneurship and employment opportunities with equality of opportunity, by inserting the youths in the productive process and promoting a sense of belonging in order to disincentive irregular migration.
In the Gaza Strip and West Bank a Junior Farmer Field and Life Schools (JFFLS) programme has been launched in 2008 in order to improve vulnerable youths’ skills and abilities in carrying out income generating activities. The grouping of former JFFLS graduates in youth farmers’ cooperatives was first piloted in this context and has proven to be key for the sustainability of such a programme.


FAO Focal Point: Peter Wobst, ESWD (
ILO Focal Point: Gianni Rosas, EMP/SEED (