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The ILO’s five-year research project with the Mastercard Foundation on school-to-work transitions confirms that, in almost every LEDC, business and vocational training are not popular either with youth or their parents. Instead, young people want to go university, even though stats show that many university graduates remain unemployed for years. That mindset has to change, especially in LEDCs where 80%-95% of youth will be forced to make their livelihoods in formal or informal enterprise.


For women, the situation is even more complex. Most learn from their mothers how to be entrepreneurial in the home, multitasking, stretching meagre incomes and managing their time and families with a degree of skill that is often near-miraculous. However, there is a mindset among some men – husbands, fathers, uncles, brothers – and government legislators that seeks to constrain women when they try to transfer those skills outside the home to the world of commerce. Human rights and the SDGs require that this is a mindset that must change. There are equally compelling economic reasons for policy-makers to embrace that change. Goldman Sachs reports that: “Closing the gap between male and female employment rates would boost US GDP by 9%, Eurozone GDP by 13% and Japanese GDP by 16%. A study in Kenya funded by Nike estimated that investing in girls could add US$3.2 billion to that country’s economy. The FAO calculates that women in Africa are responsible for 70% of crop production, 50% of animal husbandry, 60% of marketing, 100% of food processing and 100% of childcare. Finally, World Bank evidence from several countries shows that when women control more household income, children benefit as a result of more spending on food and education.

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