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Youth Employment for Inclusive Growth

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Africa has the fastest growing and most youthful population in the world. According to some estimates Africa could have the world’s largest labour force—even bigger than in India and China—in less than three decades. The continent is in a position to reap a demographic dividend that arises when the share of those in the working age in a population grows faster than that of their dependants. In Asia such dynamics were a major contributor to the rapid growth of that region from the 1960s. The fact that Africa’s youth is better educated than ever before just adds to its transformational potential. However, the rates of youth unemployment across African countries are high, often multiples of the rates for older population groups, and job creation remains slow. Moreover, among those youth that have a job, it is too often in a low-productivity informal sector and it rarely pays a living wage. Clearly the diversity of African countries and the labour markets within these should caution against generalisations and one-size fits all policy prescriptions. Nevertheless, surveys of public opinion suggest that lack of employment opportunities is a near universal concern across African countries. Accelerating the creation of decent jobs for everyone—but especially for youth—is critical for inclusive growth and development on the continent.

Guiding questions

Participants in this plenary session will be invited to reflect on the following questions in their discussion of how to make youth employment a driver of inclusive growth in Africa:

  • What are the key obstacles to youth employment in different country contexts? Does lack of demand matter most, is it over-regulation of the labour markets or is it skills mismatch, or all of these and more?
  • What labour market reforms and initiatives have proven particularly successful in removing the barriers for youth employment? How can African education systems be reformed to better prepare the youth for the labour market?
  • Why have job opportunities for youth in the manufacturing sector been so slow in the past? Can the de-industrialisation of Africa be reversed?
  • What are the opportunities for creation of youth employment in agriculture?

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