International youth day 2003

International Youth Day,12 August 2003

Secretary-General's Youth Employment Network Secretary-General’s Youth Employment Network
Finding decent and productive work for young people everywhere
International Labour OrganizationWorld BankUnited Nations

“Youth make up more than 40 per cent of the world’s total unemployed. There are an estimated 66 million unemployed young people in the world today – an increase of nearly 10 million since 1965. Under-employment is also another growing concern. The majority of new jobs are low-paid and insecure. Increasingly, young people are turning to the informal sector for their livelihood, with little or no job protection, benefits, or prospects for the future.” – Kofi Annan, UN Secretary-General, July 2001

500 million young women and men will enter the workforce within the next decade. While rapid globalisation and technological change offer new opportunities for productive work and incomes for the lucky few, for many working age young people, these trends only increase the vulnerability inherent in the transition from childhood to adulthood. Across the planet, millions of young women and men are failing to gain an entry into the workforce, and the disadvantage suffered by young women is greater. The vast majority of jobs available to youth are low paid, insecure, and with few benefits or prospects for advancement.

A generation without the hope of stable employment is a burden for all of society. Poor employment in the early stages of a young person’s career can harm job prospects for life. Underemployed or unemployed youth will have less to spend as consumers or to save and invest, which will hurt employers and economies. The economic investment of governments in education and training will be wasted if young people do not move into productive jobs that enable them to pay taxes and support public services. Young women and men who find themselves alienated from society, frustrated by lack of opportunity and without means are sometimes are more vulnerable to involvement with illegal and criminal activities and are at risk of recruitment by armed groups.

Secretary-General’s message on International Youth Day 2003
Press Releases:

Message from the Director-General of UNESCO on International Youth Day
Commemoration activities reported by UN Information Centres
Reported media coverage of International Youth Day 2003

President of Iran joins commemoration    Youth rally in Tanzania

How you can celebrate the day

Team up! It’s a great opportunity to rally support and get key actors involved – governments, non-governmental organizations, businesses, and youth – to focus on a key issue relevant and important to youth. It is also a great time to review what has been done to further the World Programme of Action on Youth. Schools, universities and similar institutions can also organize activities to promote a greater interest and awareness among young people and others the issues of concern to youth including their social, cultural, economic, civil and political rights.

Organize! Hold forums, public discussions and information campaigns in support of the Day focusing on youth issues and trends and ways and means by which youth concerns can be addressed.

Celebrate! Plan and organize performances everywhere to showcase – and celebrate – that youth can contribute to the societies in which they live and convene exchanges and dialogues focusing on the rich and varied skills, interests and aspirations of young people.

Take action! A major focus of the Day is practical action to further encourage the empowerment and participation of youth in the processes and decisions that affect their lives. The media have especially important contributions to make in support of the observance of the Day – and throughout the year – regarding appropriate presentation of progress and obstacles to implementing youth-sensitive policies, programmes and projects and to promote public awareness of the value of youth contributions.


Download the YEN Information Pack
Towards a Global Alliance for Youth Employment – the next five steps
Advance unedited version of the Report of the Secretary-General on Promoting Youth Employment
Promoting Youth Employment, General Assembly resolution adopted on 18 December 2002 (A/RES/57/165)
World Bank – Children and Youth Strategy
Millennium Development Goals
TakingITGlobal and Global Youth Action Network
Youththink (World Bank Blog)
UNICEF – Voices of Youth
UNESCO – Youth
World Organization of the Scout Movement
International Young Professionals Foundation

What are the 4Es?

Building on the successful launching of the Youth Employment Network and of its new approach to youth and employment, the High Level Panel made recommendations for 2003-2005, in which four elements will be the top priorities in every national action plan:


Promoting Employability by Improving Knowledge and Skills

In the world today, too many women and men lack the necessary education and relevant training for good, productive jobs. Too many jobs are unproductive and poorly paid. Education begins with literacy and, despite vast improvement, there is still a huge literacy gap. In many countries, training remains largely unrelated to labour market needs. School dropouts are high amongst disadvantaged youth. It is time to break the vicious circle of poor education and training, poor jobs and poverty. All countries need to review, rethink and re-orient their education, vocational training and labour market policies to facilitate the school-to work transition and to give young women and men – particularly those who are disadvantaged because of disabilities or who face discrimination because of race, religion or ethnicity – a head start in working life. Young women and men also need a set of “core work skills” such as communication, problem solving and teamwork skills to develop their employability and prepare them for work in the knowledge and skills based society.

In the national action plans the following areas need particular attention:

Government responsibility: In its Resolution on Promoting Youth Employment, the international community recognized that Governments have a primary responsibility to educate young women and men, to ensure equal access to all youth living in their country and to create an enabling environment that will promote youth employment.

Investment in education and training: Each country should set objectives and targets based on best practice/best performance for investment in education and training and other employability strengthening measures, leading to jobs and social justice for the young.

Access to basic education: Combating both child and adult illiteracy and ensuring free universal and compulsory basic education, respecting the Minimum Age Convention as well as the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, are necessary conditions for ensuring future employability.

School to work transition: Targeted programmes that combine work experience with classroom training, job search and vocational guidance and counselling can be highly effective for those unemployed youth, who need to attain the social skills and work habits required to access work.

Relevance to labour market needs: Major reforms are required for education and skill development systems to make them more relevant to labour market needs. Reforms should also focus on facilitating learning, and not just on training for narrow occupational categories.

Lifelong learning: Lifelong learning should be the conceptual basis guiding all future education and training policies. Lifelong learning is about acquiring and updating all kinds of abilities, interest, knowledge and qualifications. The concept of lifelong learning encompasses the full range of formal, non-formal and informal learning activity.

Involving social partners: Employers’ and workers’ organisation should be consulted in both the design and implementation of skill development programmes, ensuring active participation of young people to the process.

Training for peace: The market and labour markets in countries emerging from armed conflict are extremely dynamic. Training needs to be adapted to the changed demands for skilled labour and the demand for goods and services in the communities. Education and training should contribute to reconciliation and peace building by creating a non-segregated, non-discriminatory, non-violent training environment for youth. Equal access of youth from all ethnic and minority groups should be guaranteed. Sports and cultural activities within the light of the creation of a culture of peace should complement educational and training activities.

Equal opportunities

Equal opportunities for young women and men

In many countries, where boys and girls have equal access to education, girls are doing better than boys at school. In a great many countries girls are not getting the same education opportunities as boys with serious gender gaps in literacy as a consequence. Regardless of these differences in education systems, young women have in general greater difficulties than young men in entering – and staying in – the world of work, because of discriminatory policies, structural barriers and cultural prejudices. All countries need to review, rethink and reorient their policies to ensure that there are equal opportunities for young women when they enter the workforce and throughout their working lives.

Approximately half of all workers in the world are in gender-dominated occupations where at least 80 per cent of workers are of the same sex, a form of labour market rigidity that reduces employment opportunity and impairs economic efficiency. Occupational segregation is also associated with lower wage rates for women, as typical women’s occupations tend to have lower pay, lower status and fewer possibilities for advancement than do male occupations. In situations of crisis, where training and job opportunities are even more limited, girls are the first victims of exclusion. There is the potential for great economic and social benefits by implementing effective national policies for equal opportunities.

In the national action plans the following areas need particular attention:

Set objectives and targets: Each country should set objectives and targets to rectify the gender disparities in access to education, training and labour markets, and develop and implement the necessary gender sensitive policies in these areas. Indicators have to be developed.

Mainstream equal opportunities in all public policies: Governments need to make gender analysis of both new and existing policies and integrate equal opportunities between men and women in all these policies. Public policies dealing with areas that prepare youth for the job market are the most important fields of action.

Focus both on equal opportunities and equal treatment: Education, training and employment should be seen to provide equality of opportunity and treatment for young women and men; as well as recognizing the importance of lifelong learning that guarantees the employability of young women and men throughout their life cycle. For young women, the latter is crucial as they are more likely than men to be leaving and then re-entering the work force at different stages of their life, or changing jobs to suit growing family responsibilities.

Offer family friendly support mechanisms: Equality of opportunity and treatment will require that the necessary support mechanisms (child care centres, proximity and timing of training, etc.) be in place so that young women can take advantage of opportunities which are offered.

Sexual violence: In periods of crisis the numbers and severity of domestic violence against girls (and boys but to a lesser extend) tends to increase enormously. In many current conflict situations girls tend to join armed groups in order to protect themselves or simply as an opportunity to run away; giving up their education, employment and prospects on the future. Within the armies sexual abuse is however common and sexual violence has become a common war tactic in today’s armed struggles. Protective measures need to be established, especially taking into account the risks of HIV AIDS and unwanted pregnancies. Post conflict reconstruction on the other hand also provides an opportunity to challenge and change some of the pre-conflict gender roles.

Employment creation

Employment generating macroeconomic policies

Employability, equal opportunities and entrepreneurship, to be most effective, require an enabling environment where employment creation is placed at the centre of macroeconomic and other public policies. Employability requires not just appropriate skills and training but also public policies, which lead to new employment opportunities where these skills can be used. Investing in youth requires not just better skilled youth, but a commitment by public and private sector partners to keep job creation a central concern of their investment strategies. Equality should follow a high road leading to increased opportunities for both women and men. Entrepreneurship should be supported not only through structural measures but also through growth-oriented macro-economic policies so that enterprises can sustain themselves.

In the national action plans the following areas need particular attention:

Employment as an overall objective of economic policy: Governments need to consider an integrated concept for economic policy. Employment policy is not a sectoral policy among others; rather it should be seen as the successful mobilization of all public policies with the aim of getting people into full and productive employment. A growth and employment oriented economic policy brings opportunities for all, but particularly to newcomers in the labour market, of which young people are the big majority.

Financial stability to promote employment: Governments can reduce instability of financial markets through sound macroeconomic policies, active labour market policies and good governance. International financial institutions have to further develop strategies to dampen the volatility of short-term capital flows.

Open markets for developing countries: Bring quotas down for developing countries’ products (agriculture, textiles and garments) and expand active labour market programmes to manage the structural changes in the developed countries.

Employment as a central issue in all sectors of post crisis reconstruction policies and programmes: While peace appears to offer hope, economic prospects often remain grim. An immediate need is to create a stable environment and put in place a set of macroeconomic policies that lead to economic expansion. In addition, given the urgent humanitarian and development needs of the crisis countries, direct job creation measures – such as works programmes to rebuild infrastructures – need to be adopted in priority.


There are too few employers and hence to few job opportunities in the world. Governments, at the national and local levels, need to encourage a broad and dynamic concept of entrepreneurship to stimulate both personal initiative and initiatives in a broad variety of organisations, which include, but reach beyond, the private sector: small and large enterprises, social entrepreneurs, cooperatives, the public sector, the trade union movement and youth organisations.

Countries also need to strengthen policies and programmes so that small enterprises can flourish and create decent work within an enabling environment. Each country should set objectives and targets for a broad reform programme, based on best practice, which can offer more flexibility for enterprises and more security for workers.

In the national action plans the following areas need particular attention:

Cultural attitudes: Initiatives are needed to create a new culture of entrepreneurship, boosting the perception of the value of entrepreneurs to society, thereby making entrepreneurship an acceptable option for young people.

Regulations: Governments need to review existing regulations to make it easier to start and run enterprises. The number of procedures for a business start-up and the delay in getting permissions should be reduced. Governments could also facilitate business-start ups by creating easily accessible one-stop sources of information and guidance to help young women and men learn how regulations work, why they need to be observed and what they need to do to comply.

Education/training: To start a business a young person needs both entrepreneurial and vocational skills. Any vocational skills course should have entrepreneurial and business skills as part of the core content.

Finance: One of the strongest stimulants to encourage young women and men to become entrepreneurs is to ensure they can easily access seed funds for their business ideas. They need space to try out their ideas, prove their talents and learn through experience before they enter the mainstream economy. Youth business funding must be seen as a distinctive mechanism to help young people into employment.

Business Support: The more support a young entrepreneur can receive in the first years of activity, the better his or her chances of creating a sustainable business or of becoming more employable. Business people should be encouraged to support young entrepreneurs during the critical first years of their new business by transferring their knowledge, experience and contacts. They can do so by mentoring, including them in their networks, bringing the youth business into their supply chains or providing pro-bono advice and training.

Micro and small enterprises in conflict contexts: In conflict affected countries the labour market has often changed completely in a relatively short period. Industries and key-enterprises were closed and often looted. Mines might have made large parts of fertile land unusable, communities are cut of from markets, import and export possibilities are limited and tourist industries are closed down for a long period. SMEs are often the first target of armed groups in terms of looting and destruction. The successful reintegration of ex-combatants is a key factor for the stability of post-conflict countries. The capacity of countries emerging out of conflict to create employment opportunities is limited. Employment creation through private sector initiatives in the form of micro and small enterprises and cooperatives should, therefore, to be the main focus in the development and management of special youth programmes, including those for ex-combatants, refugees and youth with disabilities.