Lessons learned from youth employment programmes in developing countries

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Helpdesk Query:

What has worked or has not worked to implement youth employment programmes in developing countries?

Where is the evidence strong or weak?

Include the effectiveness of skills training, early firm support (e.g. accelerators and seed funding), labour market interventions, private sector job creation programmes, larger-scale projects and projects which are able to achieve scale.


Youth employment programmes are varied but meta-analysis and systematic reviews of impact assessments of these programmes indicate that some interventions have an overall positive effect on employment and earnings. Assessments of programmes which support youth job creation in the private sector find that larger businesses are more likely to generate jobs than micro-enterprises. In general, the youth employment strategy must be aligned with the scope for structural change in the economy: demand-side initiatives are appropriate in sub-Saharan Africa where most economies have limited potential for structural change in the short to medium term. Youth employment programmes should balance support for small and medium enterprises which are expected to create jobs with livelihoods initiatives which enable youth to become self-employed in the agricultural or informal sectors.

Only a few studies of youth employment programmes disaggregate the findings by gender and these find that interventions do not help women to overcome social barriers to entering the labour force. Women generally derive less benefit from youth employment programmes than men. Female entrepreneurs benefit more from programmes which combine training with finance. The evidence base on the impact of youth employment programmes is limited relative to the number of programmes which have been implemented.

Much of the evidence from developing countries comes from Latin America and there are few rigorous assessments of programmes in
sub-Saharan Africa. Many interventions are not assessed using rigorous experimental design methodologies which are necessary to demonstrate impact. There is a lack of reliable information on the types of interventions which have been tried and the effectiveness of the programmes which were implemented.

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