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Youth in Growth & Employment

Guidance Note

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With more than 64 million unemployed youth worldwide and 145 million young workers living in poverty, youth employment remains a global challenge and a key policy concern. More than one in five young persons is Not in Employment, Education or Training (NEET) and three out of four of these are women2. Youth tend to be under-employed, underpaid and subject to poor working conditions3. Young people are often left with precarious income in the informal sector.

There is a growing recognition of the particular challenges faced by youth in terms of employment. The Donor Committee for Enterprise Development (DCED) “Private Sector Development Synthesis Note” on youth employment provides an overview over key challenges.


In most African countries, youth unemployment occurs at a rate more than twice that of adults, and youth account for 60% of all Africa’s jobless5. Up to 70 % of African workers are working poor, the highest rate globally and the number of poor working youth has increased by as much as 80 % over the past 25 years.

Unemployment statistics exclude those in vulnerable employment, self-employed or under-employed in informal sectors and those contributing to family work6. According to the ILO 2017 report on Global

Employment Trends for Youth7, youth unemployment rates are likely to remain stable in sub-Saharan Africa.

As in other sectors, the geographical divide is a determinant in youth employment. In rural Africa, the agricultural sector is crucial to supporting global rural economies and it has significant potential to address the disproportionately high level of youth unemployment and poverty. “Youth represents a massive untapped potential (..) they can serve as a skilled group of farmers and community developers to meet the agricultural demands of a rising global population”8. Youth is the next generation of farmers, and small-scale agriculture is the leading source of employment. Nevertheless, youth is claimed to be increasingly disinterested in agriculture as a way of life, despite lacking opportunity elsewhere.

In the Danish development programmes with focus on growth and employment, agriculture and agribusinesses typically play a central role along with technological development. Some of these programmes focus on youth or include a specific component addressing youth.9

The digital economy is rapidly transforming the employment landscape across industries including financial services, health, entertainment, transportation and information and communication technologies (ICTs). The application of technology may present opportunities for youth, to some extent in rural areas and in agriculture but more significantly in cities or peri-urban areas. However, in many low-income countries, a lack of digital skills is compounded by a lack of access to technology as schools cannot afford to provide the digital education of young people. In particular, lack of access to technology represents a barrier for marginalised population groups, such as young people in rural areas and young women.10

A significant divide with respect to job opportunities for youth is gender. Research in general supports the findings by African Development Bank that young women feel the sting of unemployment even more sharply than young men. In sub-Saharan Africa it is easier for men to get jobs than it is for women, even if they have equivalent skills and experience.12

Entrepreneurship and self-employment - EXAMPLES

Evidence from a recent systematic review shows that youth entrepreneurship programmes have on average had a positive effect on increasing young people’s earningsentrepreneurship promotion programmes appear to be a promising intervention for improving income.13 Young people display the highest entrepreneurial activity compared to other age groups though they are often struggling with lack of access to finance, or limited skills and knowledge. The aim of entrepreneurship programmes is to lower such barriers to market-entry and support youth in the process of establishing businesses.

The Danish Country Programme in Mali Fonds d’Appui à la Création d’Entreprise par les Jeunes (FACEJ) 2018-2021.

The overall purpose of FACEJ is to support young people leaving technical, vocational or higher education to start their own business. The main expected effects are (i) that the creation of enterprises by trained young people is facilitated by means of capacity building and access to funding, and (ii) that the companies created by young people are economically viable.14

The Danish Country Programme in Ethiopia - Agri-Tech Incubation and Innovation Lab (2018-2021). The overall objective of the support to the Agri-Tech Incubator is the transformation of agriculture and related agri-business in Ethiopia through enhancing the incubator’s innovation reach and ability to apply a digital lens to all incubated start-ups in its programmes.

Theory of Change (TOC) - Growth and Employment
The following figure illustrates some of the key features and causalities important for youth, which should be considered when developing a ToC and a results chain for an engagement on growth and employment. As such, the ToC is intended to provide inspiration and supplement to the development of the sector specific ToC and is not a stand-alone tool. It is for inspiration in the Youth Situational Analysis and understanding of the background against which youth mainstreaming and youth engagement should be formulated, planned and implemented. See also Aid Management Guidelines: Guidelines for Programmes and Projects, January 2018, p. 19.

Growth figur

Youth Assessment Tool: Growth and Employment

An important first step in mainstreaming youth within a thematic employment programme/development engagement is to assess their access to skills development, to employment and to opportunities for engagement in own business development. In this respect the extent to which the environment enables or hinders the access and opportunities for youth is a key factor.

The matrix below describes some of the common and overall hindering and enabling factors at different levels that may impact young people’s access to employment and income.


Hindering factors

Enabling factors


Young people are deprived of income and employment opportunities by virtue of:

Young people are accessing income and employment opportunities as a result of:



  • Attitudes towards youth are negative, labelling and stereotyping them as being irresponsible, inexperienced, lacy, rebellious, etc.


  • Policies and regulations are unfavourable - lack of job centres, lack of access to credit, bank accounts and financing as well as access to land


  • Acknowledgement of the need for specialised and targeted support for youth as a result of influential labour market representatives advocating and building the case for youth


  • Key facilities and resources are in place, building conducive space for youth employment and youth business



  • Cultural and social norms that give prevalence to adults and which do not allow for youth to compete on equal terms for income opportunities


  • Cultural and social norms that retain a negative framing of youth and sustain gender inequalities


  • Interpersonal support and commitment from peers, family and opinion leaders to promote income opportunities for youth


  • Community opinion holders engaged in building awareness and support to youth employment and income along with measures to promote gender equality



  • Lack of government policies and regulations to promote youth income opportunities.


  • Lack of initiatives among private sector institutions to support youth.


  • Lack of public facilities to inform and guide to jobs and business development.


  • Lack of marketable skills development facilities


  • Government provides policies and monitor implementation to support income opportunities for youth


  • Private sector institutions and local economic development forums adopt mechanism to implement specific support to youth employment


  • A range of different facilities are in place to ensure information about job, entrepreneurship and income opportunities


  • A variety of skills development facilities for youth are supported



  • Lack of knowledge, skills, motivation and/or means to access income


  • Youth have the knowledge, skills, motivation and means to make informed decisions, and to cope with the challenges involved in getting access to employment and income

The following example of guiding questions for a contextual assessment of the realities of young people in relation to growth and employment and is a supplement to the general thematic and contextual analysis and appraisals cf. Annex 1: Context Analysis in the Guidelines for Programmes and Projects, AMG, January 2018.


Key conclusions

To what extent is youth knowledgeable of labour market regulations such as business registration, bank accounts and credit opportunities?


To what extent is youth knowledgeable of existing schemes and incubators supporting entrepreneurship and youth business development?


To what extent do youths have the required competencies and skills?


To what extent do young women have access to work and to generate income?


To what extent are the youth in the rural areas and in the agricultural sector knowledgeable of off-farm opportunities for income generation?



Key conclusions

To what extent do public and private skills development institutions provide sufficient, relevant, high quality and marketable skills?


To what extend does the government (at national and local level) have policies in place and monitor implementation, enabling the access to income opportunities for youth in the formal as well as informal sector?


To what extent do government, labour institutions and/or international actors have mechanisms to collect data and to measure results to establish evidence on feasibility in relation to youth, growth and employment?


In what sectors/areas are there opportunities for youth that can be taken to scale?


To what extent and in which ways does ICT provide opportunities for youth?


To what extend can youth access support to manage their micro- and informal businesses, i.e. street or market vendor activities?


Which, if any, youth oriented local and national platforms, unions, networks and coalitions exist for young people to take part in employment sector and policy issues?


To what extent are financing opportunities for youth entrepreneurs available?


To what extend does youth migrate in search of work?


Further Reading and Inspiration on Growth and Employment


ILO: The ILO provides a comprehensive platform for information on youth employment issues at a global level with a search mechanism for countries and specific themes. Among other issues, one finds an international guide to international labour standards and a guide to measure quality of training and apprenticeship arrangements.


ILO: The ILO report Global Employment Trends for youth 2017 provides the most recent data and explores the development in key areas related to youth employment.


ILO: Guidance tool: assessing the quality of youth employment offers.”


ILO: The Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth”. This ILO hosted site provides a wealth of information on youth and employment.


USAID: USAID provides a valuable guide to labour market assessments gathering and reviewing existing assessment approaches and tools from across the workforce, including youth. The YouthPower platform aims to provide knowledge and experience in an accessible, practical format and mechanisms to support youth to identify levers and interventions to improve labour market functioning.


African Development Bank: Jobs for Youth in Africa”. AfDB presents a comprehensive collection of approaches and promising practices. Given the scope of the engagement of the AfDB in support to youth employment, this site provided solid consolidation of lessons learned.


USAID: What works for youth in agriculture provides a site with comprehensive tools to support rural youth to overcome the challenges in accessing income generation in the agricultural sector. It is based on consolidation drawing on experiences from a range of actors.


1 The World 2030, Danish strategy for International Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Action, January 2017.

2 See ILO website on Youth Employment

3 Private Sector Development Synthesis Note - Youth Employment p. 2

4 The World 2030, Danish strategy for International Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Action, January 2017.

5 AfDB: p. 115, African Development Report 2015 - Chapter 5: Africa’s youth in the labour market

6 Africa’s jobless youth cast a shadow over economic growth, by Kingsley Ighobor, African Renewal Special Edition on Youth (2017).

7 ILO Geneva: GLOBAL EMPLOYMENT TRENDS FOR YOUTH 2017. Paths to a better working future, (2017).

8 The Pennsylvania State University, Sarah Eissler and Mark Brennan: Review of Research and Practice for Youth Engagement in Agricultural Education and Training Systems, (2015).

9 Examples are: the Agri-Tech Incubation and Innovation Lab (2018-2021) in Ethiopia, and the FACEJ programme in Mali (2018-2022).

10DCED:Private Sector Development Synthesis Note”, p. 4 (2018)

11Danida - TechDevelopment

12Africa’s jobless youth cast a shadow over economic growth, by Kingsley Ighobor, African Renewal Special Edition on Youth (2017).

13DCED: Youth Employment. Private Sector Development Synthesis Note, (2018)

14 Fonds d’Appui à la Création d’Entreprise par les Jeunes FACEJ, DED, 28.06.2018



Ministry of Foreign Affairs


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DK-1448 Copenhagen K


Tel. +45 33 92 00 00


In case of questions, please contact the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Global Youth Advisor, Thomas Rudebeck Eilertzen (