Youth Employment

Youth Employment

​Youth employment is a key to sustainable, peaceful and prosperous development. Yet, youth unemployment rates continue to be nearly three times higher than adult unemployment rates and if youths find a job it is often under precarious situations. SDC and many bi- and multilateral donors are addressing this topic which gained importance after the Millennium Summit in 2001. SDC is working along the criteria of an integrated, three-dimensional approach to promoting youth employment. Specific elements of the Swiss dual VET system are being implemented.

Documents, Tools, etc.


According to ILO young people are almost three times likely to become unemployed than adults. [1] The 15 to 24 years age group “accounts for almost half of total unemployment worldwide” [2]. And those young people who have a job are often underemployed and / or work under precarious conditions in the informal sector. This makes youth one of „the key stages of life when people become vulnerable to falling into poverty.” [3]

It is against this background that youth employment is one of the key topics on the agendas of many bi- and multilateral donor agencies, including SDC. ILO calls youth employment a “world priority”, and the ILO Director General Juan Somavia warns that the “inability of the world economy to secure a future for all youth [….] undermines families, social cohesion and the credibility of policies.” [4]

​ Youth employment terms (acc. to the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (CEDEFOP) glossary)
Employability​Qualification(s) for finding a job in the labour market
​Employment​The state of being employed with salary; a person’s regular job or occupation
Underemployment / working poor​People who have a paid work, yet not enough (low salary or part-time occupation) to make a living.
UnemploymentInability to obtain paid work although work is actively sought.


The reasons for youth unemployment are manifold. Low levels of general education and / or a lack of appropriate technical skills are key obstacles for successful labour market integration of many young people, in particular in developing countries with weak education and training systems. Discrimination of ethnic minorities and / or gender-segregated labour markets sometimes reinforces the problem. But in many countries youth unemployment cannot primarily be attributed to the young people who do not get access to decent work. It is often the inability of the economic system to generate a sufficient number of jobs in general and for the young generation specifically. Unfavourable business environments hinder employers to hire more people and / or discourage potential young entrepreneurs to set up their own business. Moreover, new jobs are often created in urban areas and young people in rural areas do not have access or are not even aware of these opportunities. For employers in search of qualified labour force a poorly functioning placement system is an important obstacle that generates high initial costs for finding adequate employees.

All this makes youth employment a challenging and complex issue for development cooperation. A key lesson that can be learnt from the experiences of many youth employment programmes of the past decades is that isolated interventions – a training programme or a business support programme – often only have limited success. What is needed is a multi-dimensional approach that integrates interventions in different areas according to the problems and requirements of the beneficiary country and of the specific target group(s).

In a discussion paper published in 2006 the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development presented an “integrated, three-dimensional approach to promoting youth employment” [5], which reflects the current international debate.


According to this approach youth employment policies have to be based on three main pillars: employability (the labour supply side), mediation / matching, and employment opportunities (the labour demand side). For each of these pillars a number of interventions are possible. Proposed types of interventions can be found here.

It depends on the specific situation of both the beneficiary country and the envisaged target group(s) which of the possible interventions are appropriate and how they should be combined, i.e. project design in the field of youth employment requires thorough analysis. Furthermore, the complexity of the issue and the need to pursue a multi-dimensional approach as described above call for donor coordination and complementary actions.


Swiss experience in youth employment promotion

SDC has long-standing experience in youth employment promotion – especially for socially disadvantaged groups – and with complex interventions. SDC has been working along the criteria of an integrated, three-dimensional approach to promoting youth employment already in the last decade of the past century: SDC’s intervention in Peru – CAPLAB (capacitacion laboral) exemplifies such a complex intervention. Today programmes like “YEP - youth employment programme” in Bosnia and Herzegovina, “opportunities for unemployed youth” in Niger or “skills empowerment for alternative livelihood” in Uganda stand for SDC’s commitment to a new generation of interventions in the field of VSD and show that the integrated approach to VET is becoming ever more accepted.

SDC pays special attention to adapting all its interventions to local/regional circumstances and not reproducing blue-prints. Specific elements of the dual VET system are present in all YE interventions: close cooperation with local and regional business actors are being established for promoting jobs for the youth, for making the youth benefitting from training opportunities and by supporting private training providers.


[1] See ILO Global Employment Trends 2011: Weak Jobs Recovery to Continue
[2] Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, Germany, Cornerstones of Youth Employment Promotion in Development Cooperation, page 3
[3] ILO handbook
[4] ILO Global Employment Trends 2011: Weak Jobs Recovery to Continue
[5] Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, Cornerstones of Youth Employment Promotion in Development Cooperation, page 8.



Youth Employment Inventory Homepage
The Youth Employment Network Homepage
International Labour Organization Homepage
Global Youth Economic Opportunities Conference Homepage
Project Example: Youth Employment Programme in Bosnia and Herzegovina - YEP
Project Example: Skills empowermentfor alternative livelihood in Uganda - SEAL Karamoya
Project Example: Centro de Servicios para la Capacitación Laboral y el Desarollo in Peru - CAPLAB
Project Example: Opportunities for Unemployed Youth in Niger

Documents, Tools, etc.

Los Ni-Ni: Una vision mitologica de los jovenes latinoamericanos: A publication on the youth in Latinamerica, who neither study nor work.

EU measures to tackle youth unemployment

February 2014
The EU is working to reduce youth unemployment and to increase the youth employment rate in line with the wider EU target of achieving a 75% employment rate for the working-age population (20-64 years). This leaflet gives an overview of the latest measures proposed by the EU to help Member States specifically tackle youth unemployment and social exclusion. 

Youth employment programmes in times of crisis

January 2014 

Global employment trends for youth 2013

June 2013
Author: ILO
The study examines the continuing job crisis affecting young people in many parts of the world. It provides updated statistics on global and regional youth unemployment rates and presents ILO policy recommendations to curb the current trends. 

Youth Labour Markets in Bosnia and Herzegovina

February 2009
Author: Niall O'Higgins, International Labour Office
Employment Policy Papers

Youth Employment - A Global Goal, a National Challenge

August 2010
Author: International Labour Office, Geneva

European Employment Observatory Review - Youth employment measures 2010

April 2011
Author: European Commission
Young people have been hit hard by the economic downturn with the EU youth unemployment rate reaching 20%. This review summarises messages from 33 national articles on this theme, linking them to policy developments, studies and data. It details the European and national contexts before examining measures to promote youth employment. These cover education, training, labour market and benefit policies, as well as measures to address problematic aspects and labour market actors’ roles. Following this, final conclusions are drawn. This publication is available in English, French and German

Emploi et entreprenariat des jeunes

January 2013
Author: GRET
Le hors-série regroupe les articles parus sur ce thème au cours des trois derniers semestriel. Ces articles présentent les démarches d’acteurs publics ou privés visant à mettre en place des formations innovantes et inclusives, ainsi que des initiatives d’appui à l’entrepreneuriat et d’accompagnement des jeunes dans leur processus d’insertion.