7-8 JUNE 2017 / Tour & Taxis / Brussels

Productive work for youth

Productive work for youth

Wednesday, November 27, 2013 - 11:30 to 13:00

Key points

  • Youth unemployment is particularly troublesome in the developing world, but has also hit the developed world.
  • When people do find jobs, they are often precarious and of poor quality.
  • With its myriad causes, the problem must be attacked on myriad fronts.
  • Entrepreneurs should receive support to start their own businesses and in turn to create employment opportunities.



Millions of young people run the risk of exclusion from the labour market and formal economic activity. Young people are three times more likely to be unemployed than older people. The developing world is hit hardest, but the economic crisis has exacerbated the problem in developed countries too. The economic crisis also dictates revisiting the assumption that the public sector can pick up the slack by hiring.

There are several barriers to entry for youths in the job market, including:

  • Lack of experience;
  • Lack of adequate skills;
  • Schooling that does not match the demands of the labour market;
  • Psychological problems – people do not want to look for work or lack sufficient emotional intelligence for the workplace;
  • Lack of self-confidence;
  • Lack of knowledge about how to look for a job or seek advice;
  • Lack of career options; and
  • Negative attitudes of potential employers.

Another concern is the quality of work. Some 300 million youths are mired in poorly paid dead-end positions with little or no job stability, few benefits, and no on-the-job training. Increasingly, people can only find part-time work, symbolised by the United Kingdom’s ‘zero hours contracts’ where employees work on call.

How can policymakers address this problem? Several recommendations emerged from the high-level panel:

  • Policy coherence – the European Union and Member States should try to ensure that their policies, including those for education and training, are all pulling in the same direction;
  • Build training programmes to give young people skills that better match the needs of businesses;
  • Encourage young entrepreneurs;
  • Focus on new technologies, a realm that offers some of the best opportunities for educated young people;
  • Civil society organisations should open their doors to young people so that they can become more involved in promoting democracy and social change;
  • Make youth employment and quality jobs priorities in formulating post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals;
  • Provide a safety net so that people can make and recover from mistakes – not just for entrepreneurs, but also for people who want retraining for different kinds of jobs;
  • Create programmes to deliver training, education and job search support; and
  • Encourage small and medium-sized enterprises, which are responsible for most new jobs.

The Austrian-based group SOS Children's Villages International works in 133 countries around the world to promote childcare, education and healthcare. It provides employment services for disadvantaged young people. By forging partnerships with private companies such as Deutsche Post DHL, it is able to place a large number of young people who otherwise might have few opportunities.

Individuals with an entrepreneurial bent should receive help to set up their own businesses or at least to become self-employed. The mindset should be to help start-ups become successful so that they can in turn create more jobs. In some societies, failure must be made more acceptable, to give entrepreneurs the motivation to get back up after being knocked down. Red tape and taxes should be reduced.


Successful models for entrepreneurial support include:

  • JADE, the European Confederation of Junior Enterprises, which helps students work as consultants.
  • HP Learning Initiative for Entrepreneurs (HP LIFE), which provides training and support for budding entrepreneurs in Tunisia, Brazil and elsewhere.