Youth employment programmes are varied but meta-analysis and systematic reviews of impact assessments of these programmes indicate that some interventions have an overall positive effect on employment and earnings. Assessments of programmes which support youth job creation in the private sector find that larger businesses are more likely to generate jobs than micro-enterprises. In general, the youth employment strategy must be aligned with the scope for structural change in the economy: demand-side initiatives are appropriate in sub-Saharan Africa where most economies have limited potential for structural change in the short to medium term. Youth employment programmes should balance support for small and medium enterprises which are expected to create jobs with livelihoods initiatives which enable youth to become self-employed in the agricultural or informal sectors.
The following key findings emerge from this report:
- Youth employment interventions must consider the structural conditions in the economy. The effectiveness of an intervention can vary by country or sector (Fox and Kaul, 2017).
- Skills development training is the most popular intervention in sub-Saharan Africa and generally improves the probability of finding employment (Betherman and Khan, 2015). Technical and vocational training has a mixed effect on employment creation. Training is more effective if it is aligned with the needs of employers and has an internship component.
- Skills training programmes tended to be more effective when run by private rather than public training providers. However, the private sector and NGO interventions lacked the capacity to scale up. Public-private partnerships may have the potential for achieving quality and scale (Glick, Huang and Mejia, 2015).
- Employment services have little impact while incentives which encourage job search have varied effects on finding jobs (Betherman and Khan, 2015).
- Small and medium enterprises account for half to two-thirds of jobs in developing countries and programmes are shifting to support this sector to create jobs for youth. Access to finance is the primary constraint for small and medium private sector businesses (Kumar, 2017).
- Larger firms are more likely to create jobs with support from an intervention. Credit or loan programmes which target larger businesses lead to job creation. Business development support provided to larger enterprises leads to sustainable increases in employment but these interventions are costly (Fox and Kaul, 2017).
- The provision of small grants to micro-enterprises may enhance performance but does not generate jobs (Fox and Kaul, 2017).
- The evidence on the effectiveness of wage subsidies on job creation is inconclusive (Betherman and Khan, 2015).
Only a few studies of youth employment programmes disaggregate the findings by gender and these find that interventions do not help women to overcome social barriers to entering the labour
force. Women generally derive less benefit from youth employment programmes than men. Female entrepreneurs benefit more from programmes which combine training with finance.
The evidence base on the impact of youth employment programmes is limited relative to the number of programmes which have been implemented. Much of the evidence from developing
countries come from Latin America and there are few rigorous assessments of programmes in sub-Saharan Africa. Many interventions are not assessed using rigorous experimental design
methodologies which are necessary to demonstrate impact. There is a lack of reliable information on the types of interventions which have been tried and the effectiveness of the programmes which were implemented. The programmes are heterogeneous and vary extensively in terms of length, quality and content. Such diversity of programmes means it is difficult to make general assessments about which programmes are effective in terms of increasing youth employment. The available data is at an aggregate level and does not distinguish among different types of young people. Impact assessments do not provide a cost-benefit analysis, so it is not possible to determine the value of creating jobs. In addition, the timing of the assessments varies — several programmes have positive results in the short term but it is not known if the impact can be sustained over a longer period.