YEO 2030 recently completed a series of successful Youth Dialogues that garnered the input of 200 youth from 18 countries. Hosted by 14 international partner organizations, 20 facilitated dialogues took place from August to December 2021. Youth provided insight into their employment challenges and offered suggestions for expanding economic opportunities for their generation.
The dialogues were categorized into three tracks: Ready for the Global Workforce (a focus on employment issues for youth), Livelihoods through Self-Employment (policies and practices to help youth entrepreneurs grow), and Global Context Matters (the industries, systems, and policies that impact youth livelihoods).
Themes related to youth economic opportunity from these three tracks emerged, such as:
Mixed livelihoods: Many young people had multiple engagements they were balancing including full-time jobs, part-time jobs, ‘side hustles’, and education. A common reason cited for this was to supplement low paying incomes, or because the jobs that pay are not the jobs that they want to do long-term, because of the salary and/or poor work conditions.
Networks and relationships: Some youth identified a lack of networks and interpersonal challenges as a constraint to their work as freelancers or entrepreneurs. Having a network can help a young person access a field of study, and, subsequently, higher paying jobs, like government or law, which are often closed to young people.
Impact of COVID 19: The most common and collective environmental stressor was the economic shock of COVID-19. The global pandemic had a lasting impact on family business, personal business, or industry where employed. This resulted in reduced work opportunities and stagnation of businesses. Local health protocols and quarantines meant young entrepreneurs were unable to reach customers and poor internet connection affected the ability to sell online.
Youth raised several issues that prevent them from obtaining stable employment along a cycle that begins with schooling and training, often ending in disappointment due to systemic socio-cultural norms and related economic barriers (Figure 1).
One Youth Dialogue participant from Ghana cited the political situation and corruption in their country as a barrier to their work opportunities. “Apart from the lack of funding or resources posing a barrier to achieving goals, it is increasingly becoming evident that those at the helm of affairs are not willing to help others get to the top.”
Youth shared that they are eager, ready, and capable of engaging in the workforce, yet just lack the right opportunities. These Youth Dialogues were hosted in preparation for the Regional YEO Convening later this month and springtime Global YEO Summit and will inform the longer-term strategy to achieve SDG 8 by the year 2030. For more on YEO 2030, visit YEO2030.org.