Youth Employment: Decent work for all, Everewhere
There are over 1.2 billion young persons in the world today. It is estimated that youth make up 18 percent of the global population and 25 percent of the total working age population. About 90 percent of young people are born in developing countries, where around half of the total population lives in rural areas of the world’s estimated 211 million unemployed people in 2009, nearly 40 percent or about 81 million were between 15 to 24 years old (ILO Global Employment Trends, January 2010). The youth unemployment rate rose drastically during the recent global economic crisis more sharply than ever before from 11.9 to 13.0 percent. Unemployment is more widespread among young people living in urban areas. Unemployment is a less-affordable option for people living in rural areas where most young workers have to accept any job in order to survive. 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.
Decent work sums up the aspirations of people in their working lives. It involves opportunities for work that is productive and delivers a fair income, security in the workplace and social protection for families, better prospects for personal development and social integration, freedom for people to express their concerns, organize and participate in the decisions that affect their lives and equality of opportunity and treatment for all women and men.
Lack of investments, to improve decent work prospects for young people in rural areas, often results in lower living standards of rural areas. The scarce availability of decent work and decent living opportunities and the little hope of a better future are the main factors pushing youth to migrate from rural to urban areas or abroad. Often, youth migration to urban areas leads to unemployment, poverty and alienation and, in some cases, to anti-social behaviors or exploitation.
The availability of and access to social services is lower in rural than in urban areas. Many of them operate in agriculture, one of the most dangerous economic sectors. Yet, youth who live in rural areas are hardly aware of the occupational health and safety and related dangers they incur and are hardly covered by health care and social security. The provision of training for employment is also biased toward urban employment. In rural communities, training opportunities to improve skills, productivity and livelihoods in agriculture are very few or they focus on programs that do not prepare children and youth for productive work in agriculture. Technology transfer and advisory services through group-based learning programs, such as those of the extension service, are usually not targeted at young people, especially young women.
Agriculture, however, will continue to play a central role in providing jobs and earnings to young and adult workers, especially those living in low-income countries. Integrated approaches that promote interventions to increase productivity in agriculture for instance via investments in land cultivation, economic and social infrastructure, agricultural value chains, human resources development and technology transfer combined with gender sensitive employment opportunities in non-farm activities, improved occupational safety and health, social security and working conditions in general, and the active involvement and support of employers’ and workers’ organizations, could render rural activities more attractive to young women and men. In parallel, these interventions can enhance security, reduce dependence and vulnerabilities, stimulate growth and promote decent work for both men and women in rural areas.