Push, Pull and Match: Balancing the Youth Employment Equation
As the global youth population — those between the ages of 10 and 24 — currently stands at more than 1.8 billion, growing fastest in low income nations1, involving young people in sound and meaningful employment is essential to achieving sustainable economic development. As Monalisa Mbise, a participant in SNV’s Opportunities for Youth Employment (OYE) program in Tanzania phrased it, “Youth are the strength of a nation.”
With an increasing number of young people entering the job market however, it is plain to see that we’re up against a challenge. Monalisa and her friends and fellow OYE participants, Dickson and Israel, were once a few of the 274 million young people around the world who are unemployed or underemployed, working in insecure jobs. It is predicted that at least 600 million new jobs will need to be created within the next 10 years to sustain this expanding labor force.
On top of this, where job opportunities do exist, many young people entering the labor force lack the skills necessary for employment. Although training programs might be the perceivable obvious answer, in our experience, among the rural, out-of-school youth from age 19 to 20 that SNV works with, education and training are only half of the youth employment equation.
Many young people who receive training do not receive the right training and still lack relevant or marketable skills. As a result there is a mismatch between the supply of labor and employers’ demand for workers with the right skills. Even when training does give young people the right tools, it often only takes them one step of the way, without connecting them to viable job opportunities or pathways to utilize their newfound skills.
OYE, SNV’s approach to investing in young people, aims to balance the youth employment equation through our push, pull and match strategy. The push factor consists of building relevant, marketable skills among young people, including hard technical and business skills, and soft skills such as leadership, relationship-building and self-presentation. The pull factor sources private sector job opportunities for young people through job placement and apprenticeship programs, or helps them recognize and capitalize on opportunities for self-employment. The match factor connects the push and pull factors, placing young people with private sector enterprises, or supporting them with connections to markets, access to finance and mentorship as they work for themselves.
The push, pull and match strategy is part of OYE’s holistic approach to connecting young people to valid employment. By supporting youth to go into business for themselves, and actively supporting the growth of their enterprises, OYE enables them to create sustainable employment opportunities for themselves and their fellow young people. The self-employment opportunities that OYE supports include contract-farming, outgrower schemes and retail and installation of solar energy and improved cookstoves.
A complete understanding of local market contexts is key to this strategy. To implement it, SNV relies on our long-term, local presence in our host countries to give youth skills that are based on the job market’s demand, match young people with real and meaningful opportunities, and empower them with the knowledge and tools needed to work for themselves. Additionally, OYE conducts regular market assessments and often renews engagements with private sector entities to continue sourcing the opportunities that make up the pull factor.
In partnership with Mastercard Foundation, SNV is implementing OYE in Rwanda, Tanzania and Mozambique from 2013 to 2018. So far, OYE in these three countries has helped 14,353 young people enter in sustainable employment and has helped establish 908 youth-led enterprises. The employment opportunities that OYE matches eager young people with, and the youth-led enterprises that OYE supports, are integrated across agricultural, renewable energy and WASH value chains that have concrete potential for employment creation.
Agriculture in particular is one of the most promising sectors for youth employment. In sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, up to 70 percent of young people live in rural, farmable areas, and half of the youth labor force works in agriculture, amounting to huge potential for job opportunities. Youth comprise a workforce that is particularly energetic and innovative, and they hold the potential to contribute these qualities to an agriculture sector that is modernizing in the face of urbanization, growing populations and shifting weather patterns.
With OYE’s support, Monalisa, Dickson and Israel are now a few of the thousands of young people who were able to build sustainable, profitable and exciting careers in agriculture, an industry rife with entrepreneurial and employment opportunities for young people who have been shown the path to find them.
“I’m a farmer, so I can develop my country, Tanzania,” says Israel. “Learning is a continuous process. When you put it into practice, you will move out of poverty and transform the economy of our country. Because us young people, we are the ones to do it.”
1Das Gupta, Monica, Kollodge, Richard, et al. State of World Population 2014: the Power of 1.8 Billion: Adolescents, Youth and the Transformation of the Future. United Nations Population Fund, 2014.