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Youth are often excluded from decision-making processes and denied their rights. Rural youth in particular lack access to relevant skills, knowledge and jobs. The figures are startling:

  • 30% of the 43.4 million of 15 to 24-year olds in Indonesia are unemployed.
  • In Pakistan, this is 25-40% out of 37.4 million.
  • Bangladesh has 31.2 million people aged 15-24, of whom 75% live in rural areas. 18.1% of young women are in the labour market, compared to 29.6% of young men.
  • In Ethiopia the majority of the youth (20.7 million people) live in rural areas with limited access to essential services. Underemployment remains a huge issue as well, especially for women.

Many of these problems entrench women in poverty. Social norms confine young women to low-paid economic roles that do not provide opportunities to ‘escape’ poverty and perpetuate harmful gender stereotypes. The unfair distribution of household work undermines women's economic and lifestyle choices. A lack of sexual and reproductive health rights further limits women’s economic opportunities and empowerment.

A lack of voice and representation means that norms, policies and practices do not reflect the situations youth face and does little to lift them out of poverty. For example, it results in a lack of investment in youth-friendly sectors, in limited job creation and in old-fashioned and unattractive training programmes. More youth-representative norms, policies and practices help ensure that people are treated more fairly and improved the way of life.

The inability to adapt to climate change holds back families from advancing out of poverty. It limits agricultural productivity and income, destroys family assets, encourages migration and the subsequent break-up of families. By supporting youth to obtain decent work and entrepreneurs to start climate-friendly businesses, the youth can generate incomes that will help them and their families to better confront the effects of poverty entrenchment and climate change.

The lack of professional support and financial services for small businesses has two impacts: it limits the development of SMEs meaning that the number of jobs available for youth are limited, and it limits the opportunities for youth, with entrepreneurial ability, to use that ability to lift themselves and their families out of poverty. With improved skills, young people can be better ready to enter the labour market and with access to better jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities, young people will be able to provide for their families and for their future.

With their energy, skills and creativity, young people can drive social change, strong economies and vibrant democracies. Working together with young people, governments and the private sector, we can make huge impacts on rural communities by tackling the high rates of youth unemployment, gender inequality and the effects of climate change.