Young people in developing economies are taking on jobs that fall short of their aspirations. Throughout
the developing world young people value similar job characteristics and employment conditions, such
as job security and formal employment, and most of them want to work for the public sector and to
become professionals. However, these preferences are at odds with reality: about 80% of students
currently enrolled in school in developing countries wish to be in high-skilled jobs, but only 20% of
young workers presently hold such jobs. This gap is particularly pronounced in Africa and Latin
America, and persists even for tertiary educated youth.
In the face of such challenge, governments are promoting youth entrepreneurship programmes in an
attempt to create jobs. However, this is not enough: only a tiny portion of young entrepreneurs proves
to be successful. The majority remains in subsistence activities, held back by low levels of education,
informality, poor physical infrastructure and limited access to finance. In fact, youth entrepreneurship,
on average, is less financially rewarding than wage employment. Although the vast majority of young
entrepreneurs do generate some profits, these are most often modest and below the level of income
earned by their peers in wage employment. Relatively few youth businesses create more jobs. The fact
that a large majority of youth are failing to succeed as entrepreneurs cautions policy makers to move
carefully in promoting entrepreneurship as a solution to the youth employment challenge.
This report summarises the main findings from the global and country-level research carried out by the
Youth Inclusion project between 2014 and 2018. The project worked with nine developing countries
(Cambodia, Côte d’Ivoire, El Salvador, Jordan, Malawi, Moldova, Peru, Togo and Viet Nam) to support
them in better responding to the aspirations of young people as well as strengthening youth involvement
in national development processes. The project shed light on the determinants of youth vulnerabilities
and successful transitions, and enhanced national capacities to design evidence-based policies that
promote youth inclusion.
In addition, the project assessed the performance of youth-specialised ministries and agencies. Despite
nearly two out of three countries in the world having a national youth policy or strategy, youth aspiration
gaps remain wide and youth well-being outcomes often fall short of commitments. Greater policy
coherence, adequate funding and stronger institutional capacity are needed for specialised ministries to
turn national youth strategies into an effective driver of youth well-being across all areas of
governmental action. Countries with a track record of effectively improving the lives of young people,
and their contribution to the development of their communities, are actually those where overall, broadbased and inclusive policies support economic growth.