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International Labour Organisation

The International Labour Organisation(ILO) leads on labour issues and employment policy within the UN System.

ILO manages the UN Global Initiative for Decent Jobs for Youth– a comprehensive UN system-wide effort to deliver on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It focuses on locally owned interventions, clustered around eight thematic priorities:

Every two years, the ILO produces the Global Employment Trends for Youth(GET Youth)– the essential work of reference for all working within this field.

A summary of the main findings of the most recent (2017) report follows

GET Youth 2017 main findings

 Global and regional trends for youth employment

  • Globally, 70.9 million young people are estimated to be unemployed in 2017 and the global youth unemployment rate is 13.1% – little changed in the last three years. This is officially registered unemployed youth: it does not include the millions who are in education, sitting at home, or not looking for work.
  • In developing countries, the unemployment rate among youth is expected to remain stable at 9.5%, while in emerging countries it is expected to rise to 13.8%. In developed countries it is expected to decline from 14.0% in 2016 to 13.4%.
  • Across OECD countries, almost 18% of unemployed youth have been without work for a year or longer.
  • Youth are three times as likely as adults to be unemployed. Globally, the ratio of youth to adult unemployment rates has changed very little in recent years, which illustrates the persistently disadvantaged state of young people in labour markets.
  • Between 1997 and 2017, the youth population grew by 139 million people, while the youth labour force shrank by 34.9 million people. The proportion of youth in the overall global labour force declined from 21.7% to 15.5%.
  • The youth labour force participation rate (LFPR = the percentage of youth who are engaged in the labour market, either by working or looking for work)has declined in the past 20 years from 55.0% to 45.7%. As the chart shows, only amongst elder women (25+) has the LFPR increased: amongst young women, it is dropping everywhere except Sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Globally, three out of four employed young women and men are in informal employment, compared to three in five for adults. In developing countries, this ratio is as high as 19 out of 20 for young women and men.
  • An estimated 21.8% of young people are neither in employment nor in education or training (NEET). Female NEET rates are much higher: globally, the female NEET rate is 34.4%, compared to 9.8% for males.
  • Young women comprise three out of every four young NEETs, and the disparity is greatest in emerging countries where four out of five young NEETs are female. In Southern Asia, in particular, nine out of ten young NEETs are women.
  • Regionally, male NEET rates are lowest in Eastern Asia at 3.7%, followed by South Asia at 5.8%. Rates are highest in Northern Africa at 16.7%, followed by Central and Western Asia at 14.8%.
  • The latest data shows that 76.7% of working youth are in informal jobs, compared with 57.9% of working adults.
  • Youth in the informal sector as a percentage of employed youth is 96.8% in developing countries, 83.0% in emerging countries, and slightly less than 20% in developed countries.
  • Globally, it is estimated that 21.8% of youth are NEET, 76.9% of which are female.
  • In 2017, 16.7% of working youth in emerging and developing countries live below the extreme poverty threshold of US$1.90 per day.
  • Young people form the bulk of international migrants – around 70% are younger than 30.
  • The global population is ageing. In 2015, youth aged 15–24 made up 16.2% of the total population, while adults aged 65 or older amounted to 8.3%.
  • By 2030, the share of youth will fall slightly, to 15.2%, while the share of people aged 65 or older will rise to almost 12%.
  • By 2050, the older population is projected to outnumber young persons, and this implies that the active workforce must sustain the pension and health-care schemes for a growing number of retired workers.

Measuring transitions: pathways to decent work

  • In developing countries, young persons are more likely to settle definitively into self-employment.
  • For all levels of education, transitions into employment tend to be longer in emerging countries than in developing countries.
  • Combining work with study substantially shortens the transition period in all regions.
  • The longer a young person studies, the shorter the transition time into employment.

Future of work for youth: Technology and sectoral shifts

  • Compared to older workers, young workers are more comfortable with new technologies and likely to adapt faster.
  • The sectors identified as an expanding source of youth employment are: financial services; human health and social work activities; trade, hotels and restaurants. Meanwhile, transport, storage, information and communications (ICT) are absorbing young workers across the globe.
  • Manufacturing employment has declined in most regions, but remains important, especially in Asia and the Pacific, and particularly for young workers.
  • Overall, constant innovation will require a strong need for core work skills such as complex problem-solving, openness to learning and adaptability, across all education levels.

New forms of youth employment

  • Young people are twice as likely as adults to be in temporary employment.
  • New forms of work like crowd-working and the gig economy present opportunities because of their flexibility, but also dangers because of the lack of regulation.
  • Young people value job security and expect to achieve it in the future.
  • On average, young workers are now better educated than previous generations. In addition, they have grown up in an environment more open to technology and thus have a comparative advantage in computer use compared to older workers.
  • In high-income countries, one in three young workers does not have a contract of employment. In upper middle-income countries, it is one in two, and in low and lower middle-income countries, three out of four young workers have no contract.

Policies for a better future of youth employment

The ILO’s Call for Action,which sets out a strategy for holistic, multi-pronged action to address the youth employment challenge, has been reiterated recently at a series of national consultations held to discuss the Future of Work.

  • Many young people combine work and study. From 2012–16, on average, a quarter of those still in school are working or had worked at some point. In all regions, the transition to work was shortest for young people who combined work with study.
  • ILO’s School-to-Work Transition Surveysin 34 countries found that the average time for the full transition to a stable and satisfactory job was 13.8 months – 14.4 months for females and 13.7 months for males. Young people living in rural areas had a longer transition: 15.4 months, compared to 13.3 months for their urban counterparts.
  • Trends from the last decade suggest prominent growth sectors for young workers include: financial services; trade, hotels, and restaurants; transport and storage, information and communications; and health services (including care work and social work activities).
  • The percentage share of young workers in financial services has grown in Asia and the Pacific, Eastern Europe, Central and Western Asia + Latin America and the Caribbean while it has declined in Northern, Western and Southern Europe and North America.
  • Globally, there has been growth in the trade, hotel and restaurant sector, in transport and storage, + information and communication, as well as in the health services sector.
  • In the developing regions of Africa, Asia and the Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean, employment in agriculture is declining for both young and older workers, though a sizable number of young workers remain in agriculture.
  • Manufacturing employment, though it has declined in most regions in recent years, remains a significant employer – accounting for roughly 10% of employment in Africa, 20% in Eastern Europe, Central and Western Asia, and approximately 17 percent in Asia and the Pacific.
  • Trends from the last decade point towards an increase in the share of high-skilled workers and a decline in the share of semi-skilled workers.
  • Macro-economic policies, complemented by sectoral policies, will play an important role in supporting this, particularly as technology affects demand for labour.
  • Expansionary fiscal policy and sectoral development policies can be combined with Active Labour Market Programmes to establish a coherent overall strategy to facilitate the transition of young people to decent work.
  • Skills development systems will need to adapt to changing demands for skills. But it will also provide opportunities, such as the expansion of training to disadvantaged groups.
  • Governments, firms and workers’ organizations need to collaborate on identifying and developing relevant skills. Youth voices and aspirations must also be taken into consideration.
  • New technology can be used to increase young people’s access to finance, as well as encourage green jobs and platform-based cooperatives that promote entrepreneurship.
  • Labour market institutions and information systems must adapt to rapid changes and take advantage of technological innovation. This will help to improve profiling of young people in youth employment programmes, expand programme delivery and promote better coordination and monitoring for improved labour market governance.
  • New and diverse employment forms must be reflected in new and updated mechanisms for ensuring young workers’ rights. Active participation of the social partners will be crucial.
  • Global alliances such as the Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth, launched in 2016, are critical for scaling up action and impact to advance the SDGs.


For the Full Report, see–en/index.htm.


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