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The Capabilities Approach – an idea for improving the metrics on youth job creation at the grassroots

by David Woollcombe

If, as Kofi Annan wrote in 2003, “Youth are a nation’s most precious resource,” then metrics must be developed to measure the capabilities they acquire between the ages of 5 and 25, as well as how those capabilities expand their career choices and job prospects. Such capabilities may be seen as an individual child’s assets. As they grow through pipeline of adolescence into adulthood, they acquire skills that increase the value of their assets. These assets may be measured so that a child can achieve High Asset Value (HAV) in different areas:

  • Basic skills (reading, writing and arithmetic = HAV-Basics)
  • Farming or construction skills ( = HAV Farm / HAV Build)
  • Management or accountancy ( = HAV Man / HAV A/c)

As a result of acquiring these assets, young people may acquire what the ILO calls a ‘Decent Job’ ( = HAV Job.) A country with a youth population equipped with numerous HAVs is poised for economic success in a way that a nation of numerous HAV-nots cannot be. Amartya Sen’s Capabilities Approach is perhaps the best way of assessing the job creation skills and capacities acquired by individual youth.  If societies are providing youth with the skills and capabilities that allow them to make, and follow-through on, choices to create a better future for themselves, an asset-based capabilities approach to positive youth development may be part of the answer to our measurement challenge. A capabilities approach sees youth as a precious resource and seeks to quantify the quality of that resource.

At the very least, this approach would give governments and policy-makers an accurate sense of the work readiness skills that their future work force has accumulated.

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