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Restless Development and Murray Edwards College Cambridge University have collaborated on a research project looking into one of the biggest crisis of our time: unemployment for 600 billion of the world’s young people.

In April, youth representatives from across the world and academics from the UK came together to discuss solutions that are informed by young people and find out what it really means for young people to make a living.

Poppy Bullen, Restless Development’s Global Communications Officer, spoke to the youth representatives (also known as Gamechangers) to find out more about what they had to say at the three day workshop and next steps that must be taken to help solve this crisis.

(From left to right) Jevanic, Benedicta, Marwa, Inota, Meddy, Sulaima

Why is global youth unemployment a big issue?

  • One billion young people will enter the labour market in the next decade but the world bank estimates that 60% of them will not be able to find jobs.
  • With 90% of young people living in low income countries and where the vast majority are unemployed, underemployed or in precarious work, the situation will worsen as youth populations continue to grow until 2100
  • Many existing employment interventions are failing – young people are gaining skills but unable to secure employment
  • We need to listen and co-design solutions with young people if we care going to solve this problem.

(From left to right) JMeddy, Inota, Moneera, Marwa, Benedicta, Yvonne, Sulaima, Jevanic

The Gamechangers

Sulaima from Palestine – co-founded Puppets for Kids Enterprise, a mobile theatre that uses puppet shows to educate children both in-school, out-of-school about social issues in Palestine.

Yvonne from Kenya – manager at Nzumari Africa, a youth led community based   organisation, who focuses her work on equipping young people with entrepreneurial and life skills to be self sufficient.

Inota from Zambia – co-founded She Entrepreneur, a non-profit organisation that provides training to girls in financial literacy and entrepreneurship.

Jevanic from St.Lucia – youth leader, environmentalist and community activist who helped set up a regional youth led movement to tackle environmental issues and raise awareness on climate change in the region.

Benedicta from Ghana – works at Global Communities on the Youth Inclusive Entrepreneurial Development Initiative for Employment (YIEDIE) Project, which creates economic opportunities in Ghana’s construction sector for young people.

(From left to right) Jevanic, Benedicta, Marwa

What were the most important issues facing young people in employment that were discussed at the workshop?

Benedicta: Quality of employment for young people was raised as one of the issues faced by young people. Skilled young people tend to find themselves in low income earning jobs and jobs that do not fully utilize their skills and expertise.

Yvonne: There are skill gaps that do not much the labour market and there is need to integrate both the demand and supply side. Young people are heterogeneous therefore they have different interest both in the formal and informal sectors.

What solutions were suggested to help solve the youth unemployment crisis?   

Jevanic: Solving or even curbing the youth unemployment crisis requires full participation and collaboration among key stakeholders namely government, private sector and young people. A shift in focus from supply side policies which essentially seek to prepare young people for the labor market to a greater emphasis on demand side policies.

Inota: Various interventions were suggested as solutions to the employment crisis, comprising of interventions that should be introduced, up scaled and totally gotten rid of. The consensus was that a tailored approach was important understanding the fact that a portfolio approach to making a living exists. While some research has shown that vocational training was not very effective, there was a suggestion to revisit vocational training and ensuring that the skills taught are market demand driven.

Inota

How did it feel to represent young people at this workshop?

Sulaima: My experience at this workshop was different from experiences I have had representing young people at other events. We were there to speak and get our voice heard rather than hearing what others are coming to the workshop with, and everyone’s input was very precious and added to the workshop.

Jevanic: Often times being categorised as a young person in such forums can be disadvantageous in terms of the treatment granted. However, at this workshop we were well embraced, by all parties involved, granted a fair opportunity to share our views and treated equally or maybe even better than participants who may not necessarily be considered “youth” (Based on the UN definition of course).

What next steps do you hope to see now following the workshop?  

Inota: The solution to youth unemployment cannot be solved by using a blanket approach. While a number of youth might be engaged in entrepreneurship it might be as a result of a lack employment opportunities.

Sulaima: During the workshop I saw that the delegates were perceiving some issues in a very different manner from what young people did. I hope that a better understanding of the issues was achieved in everyone’s mind, and could be translated into a shift in the policies and interventions of the big institutions working on the group to help young people.

Benedicta: Following the workshop, I hope to see interventions that do not only focus on job creation but on the quality of jobs being created for young people.

Yvonne: I would like to see the recommendations presented at major conferences that target youth unemployment or employment, disseminated to governments, corporations and everyone else and hopefully some decision will be influenced by the report.

(From left to right) Perry, CEO of Restless Development; Jevanic; Rachel, Senior International Research Manager, Restless Development Uganda; Moneera, Marwa, Sulaima, Dame Barbara Stocking, president of Murray Edwards College, Cambridge; Benedicta, Yvonne, Inota, Maeve, Policy & Advocacy Coordinator, Restless Development UK; Meddy.


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