As Lutheran World Relief celebrates International Youth Day, we are committed to amplifying youth voices and improving their choices through equitable access to employment opportunities.
Over 67 million youth are unemployed globally and the majority live in rural areas with limited economic opportunities. The fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic has overwhelmingly impacted youth whose employment fell by more than twice that of adults in 2020.
Recognizing that livelihood creation for these young people will depend heavily on the agriculture sector, Lutheran World Relief's approach to youth engagement follows USAID's Positive Youth Development Framework and strives to prepare young people living in rural poverty for viable careers in agriculture.
With public-private partnerships, we advance economic and entrepreneurial opportunities for youth that support community resilience. In honor of International Youth Day, we want to dispel the myths that perpetuate harmful stereotypes around youth employment:
Myth 1: Youth do not work hard.
Youth are too often perceived as difficult hires who lack reliability and drive. However, youth leaving the agricultural sector are far from uncommitted. Instead, they have grown up watching previous generations struggle to survive on income from farming. Investment in youth that prioritizes technological advances, sustainable practices and value chain strengthening leads to economic opportunities. Motivated youth are quick, adaptable learners who bring groundbreaking ideas and long-term commitment to the work that they do.
Myth 2: Youth lack entrepreneurial skills.
Youth unemployment and underemployment is highest in low- and middle-income countries where job creation does not move fast enough to absorb the growing workforce. Fostering youth entrepreneurship and self-employment is an important vehicle not only for economic growth and livelihoods strengthening, but also for building human dignity. Youth are incubators of new ideas and technical skills. When equipped to navigate the local social system, market dynamics and regulatory environment, youth have enormous potential for entrepreneurial success.
Myth 3: Traditional education and training programs are enough to ensure youth will get a job.
Educational and vocational institutions do not inherently create employment. Traditional education systems and training programs, often plagued by outdated curricula and quality issues, have done little to resolve the frequent mismatch between the skills recent graduates possess and those required by employers in today's rapidly evolving global economy. Educators and firms should mentor future business leaders while encouraging self-employment and micro-enterprises. Public and private partnerships should invest in youth capacities around leadership, entrepreneurship, market systems development approaches, financial management and marketing. By valuing inter-generational collaboration and horizontal knowledge transfer as well as formal internships and expanded curriculums, youth employment can grow.
Myth 5: Youth contributions to policy and programs are unnecessary.
Youth are too often marginalized from policymaking as well as informal, community decision-making where entrenched hierarchies persist. Sustainable development can only be advanced by listening to young people and involving them in the process of developing solutions and advocating for their rights and needs. Youth-driven interventions shape future policy, improve community resiliency and drive innovation.