UN initiative targets job creation and decent work conditions for young people

FAO to lead efforts for youth in agriculture and the rural economy

1 February 2016, New York - FAO welcomed today the launch in New York of the UN Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth, which includes a focus on promoting decent employment opportunities for young people in agriculture and the rural economy.

Under the lead of the International Labour Organization (ILO), the Initiative was developed by 19 international organizations that are committed to increasing the impact of youth employment policies and expanding country-level action on decent jobs for young women and men.

Globally, young people account for approximately 24 percent of the working poor -- this dynamic is particularly pronounced in Africa, where over 70 percent of youth subsist on $2 per day or less.

Of the estimated 200 million unemployed people in 2014, 37 per cent (or 73 million) were between the ages of 15 and 24.

The new UN Global Initiative aims to address the prevailing high levels of youth unemployment by scaling up action across the UN system and in all sectors of the global economy.

FAO will be leading one of the eight thematic areas of the strategy, on Youth in the Rural Economy, while contributing to others.

"Poverty and hunger cannot be eradicated without addressing the inadequacy of employment conditions and opportunities facing the world's young people, especially for young women and those living in rural areas," said Brave Ndisale, FAO Social Protection Division Deputy Director.

This is in line with achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which was recently adopted by the international community. Among the 17 Sustainable Development Goals , Goal 8 explicitly calls for "inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all".

To date, in many parts of the world employment and entrepreneurial opportunities for young women and men remain limited, poorly remunerated and of poor quality, particularly for those living in economically stagnant rural areas of developing countries.

The majority of rural youth are employed in the informal economy as contributing family workers, subsistence farmers, home-based micro-entrepreneurs or unskilled workers. They typically earn low wages, are employed through casual or seasonal work arrangements and face unsafe, often exploitive working conditions that compel many to migrate to urban areas - or abroad.

Swelling numbers, growing challenges

Some 1.2 billion youth live in the world today - just over 14 percent of the global population. Almost 88 percent of these young people live in developing countries - a figure that is expected to increase over the coming decades. Asia alone is home to 60 percent of the world's youth, while a further 18 percent live in Africa. Within Africa, 61 percent of the entire population are under 24 years of age.

FAO underlines that greater efforts should be made to integrate young people in rural economies to promote food security and sustainable livelihoods.

Today, most of the world's food is produced by ageing smallholder farmers in developing countries, while a new generation of food producers needs to emerge and have access to new approaches and technologies needed to feed the planet's growing world population while protecting the environment.

A way forward

The Initiative is based on several guiding principles, including respect for human rights, the promotion of gender equality and the application of international labour standards and other relevant UN normative frameworks. It also seeks to promote investment to improve young people's education and skills.

More specifically, the Initiative will:

  • Engage key stakeholders and world leaders in high-level policy action on youth employment;
  • Expand and scale up national and regional policies and interventions on youth employment;
  • Pool existing expertise and enhance knowledge on what works for youth employment; and
  • Leverage resources from existing facilities while also mobilizing additional resources.

FAO has placed the promotion of decent rural employment as one of its top priorities, and has established a specific programme of work targeting youth.

For example, young people's skills can be strengthened using FAO's Junior Farmer Field and Life Schools methodology; facilitating their access to land, credit and markets; and enhancing their ability to participate in policy debates.

FAO also works with governments to integrate youth issues into national policies and strategies as well as national agricultural investment plans (NAIPs). To advise stakeholders about employment conditions and opportunities in their respective countries, FAO mobilizes its long experience and research expertise to conduct country-analyses of labour market conditions, youth employment situation and untapped opportunities for rural employment generation.

Photo: ©FAO/Sergey Kozmin
A young maize farmer in Kyrgyzstan. Greater efforts should be made to integrate young people in rural economies.