The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals is in its third year of implementation. The agenda commits to leaving no one behind by recognizing youth as its “critical agents of change”. Young generation is defined by UN as individuals aged from 15 to 24 years. There are in total 169 targets under 17 goals in SDGs. More than one third of these targets refer implicitly or explicitly to young people.
Youth receives the highest priority in the 2030 Agenda as eventually they are the one to experience its success or failure after 15 years. Also, this generation of youth is the largest ever in human history. Global youth population stands at 1.1 billion in 2018 that is 18 percent of the world’s population. Among them Asia and the Pacific region alone contains 60 percent of youth. (Advocates for youth)
Despite being such an important part of the world demography, this generation is facing global challenges like poverty, health risks, lack of quality education, unemployment and lack of decent work higher than the adults. A major challenge is the youth unemployment. The Report ‘Global Employment Trends for Youth 2013’ identifies youth as a generation at risk. In the context of young people facing prolonged job crisis, temporary and informal employment, and discouragement, the report states that it is not easy to be young in the labour market today. To solve this global crisis, 2030 Agenda puts great emphasis on promoting employment for youth.
There are four youth employment specific targets under two key SDGs: Decent Work and Economic Growth (Goal 8) and Quality Education (Goal 4). Under goal 8 three relevant targets are: achieving full and productive employment, decent work and equal pay for work of equal value for young people by 2030 (8.5), reducing the proportion of youth not in employment, education or training (NEET) substantially by 2020 (8.6), and developing and operationalize a global strategy for youth employment and implement the Global Jobs Pact of the International Labour Organization by 2020 (8.b). Relevant target under goal 4 is to increase the number of youth who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship substantially by 2030 (4.4). (ILO)
Targets have been set. However, satisfactory progress towards achieving the related targets is yet to come. According to ILO reports, overall condition of youth employment today has either deteriorated or remained similar to the launching year 2015. From 12.9 percent in 2015, global youth unemployment rate has increased to 13 percent in 2017. The rate is three times higher than the adult unemployment rate (4.3%). In fact, the ratio of youth unemployment to adult unemployment has been consistently close to three since 1995. In 2017, the highest rate is in North Africa (almost 30%), followed by Arab states (25.6%), Europe and central Asia (18%), Latin America and Caribbean (18%), Asia and Pacific (10.4%) (World Bank data). Secondly, the incidence of informal employment among youth remains stuck at 76.7 percent in 2017. In the case of NEET, roughly 25% of youth were NEET in some 28 countries in 2015, whereas in 2017 globally 21.8% of youth are NEET. This target 8.6 should be fulfilled by 2020. However, there has not been any substantial change till now. NEET young people are mostly female with rate of 34.4% globally.
Therefore, a long way to go before achieving the SDG targets for youth employment. International organizations are working relentlessly in this regard. However, global initiatives at best can assist rather than achieve the ambitious goals. Rapid action at national level is required as the underlying causes and solutions for these global challenges are actually country specific. Focusing on overall unemployment alone will not solve the problem either. Because globally youth unemployment has increased while unemployment rate has decreased. Related issues such as school to work transition, decent work, skill mismatch, young entrepreneurship, entry level constraints should receive priority in policy making. Another notable issue is data is unavailable for a large number of countries. For measuring progress towards SDGs, all related indicators in each country should be traced. A strong national statistical system is inevitable to solve this issue. Also progress reports need to present status of all 169 targets to point out where we stand and where we need to proceed. Recently published Sustainable Development Goal Report 2018 does not cover this. Also, the report has not focused much on youth. Regarding Global Jobs Pact, there is no recent progress report on implementation status.
Andilip Afroze, Senior Research Associate, SANEM.