The Youth Livelihoods Alliance: Joining Forces for Economic Opportunity

United States Department of State

As I speak with young people from around the globe, I find striking similarities. They are full of innovation, creativity, and talent. People under 30 are the first generation of youth that can consider themselves a global entity. They see themselves as global citizens and want to connect and help one another. With young people now making up over half the world's population, we have a real opportunity to help them realize their aspirations and help to turn the youth bulge into a youth dividend. Economic opportunity, especially employment, is the most pressing issue facing young people around the world. Getting a job is an important step towards independence, and can be a source of great pride. But too many young people who are seeking jobs are unsuccessful. Reports by the World Bank and the International Labor Organization (ILO) paint a grim picture of youth unemployment. The ILO estimates that nearly 75 million young people are now unemployed globally, an increase of more than 4 million since the financial crisis of 2008-2009. The outlook for the medium term is worsening, and young people who are not in school or training are three times as likely as their adult counterparts to be out of work.

Yet it is these same young people who have the potential to solve this daunting challenge. I've seen and heard from truly innovative youth who are leveraging innovation in new ways, and are focusing their energy on ways to help their communities and their counterparts around the world. The entrepreneurial spirit of young people, who now form the majority of the world's population, is fueling change for good.

For example, I recently met with a young woman from Kenya who spoke about the impact mentorship had on her life. With the help of a private-sector mentorship program, she became the first person in her family to complete high school and college, and was lifted out of poverty. But what was striking is that when she spoke about her future plans, her definition of success was not solely based on the money she would make or the career ladder she would climb. Her ultimate goal was to join forces with others to make positive changes in the lives of young people. She understood that someone had seen the value of her intelligence and raw talent and invested in her, and she now wants to do the same. I'm happy to say that this visionary young woman from Kenya is not alone. Private sector companies, governments, multilateral organizations, and civil society groups realize the importance of youth. These stakeholders are equally concerned about the unemployment crisis this generation faces and recognize the critical need to facilitate greater opportunities for youth. Today marks the launch of the Youth Livelihoods Alliance, a multi-sector global initiative that aims to address the challenges of youth unemployment and increase opportunities for young people's economic participation. I am proud that the Department of State is the first government agency to join the Alliance, which is led by the International Youth Foundation, and includes members such as Hilton Worldwide, Microsoft, MasterCard Worldwide, Caterpillar, Manpower, Laureate International Universities, and the Multilateral Investment Fund of the InterAmerican Development Bank. We see this as a critical investment in the future. The Department of State's unique position allows us to use our convening power to raise awareness of the issue of youth unemployment and to encourage more effective partnerships among the public and private sectors.

Our membership in this exciting Alliance is just one way we are working for young people, and we will continue implementing programs that help young people acquire the skills they need to realize their aspirations. As an example, this November, 16 young technology developers from Africa, the Middle East, and Asia will travel to the United States on an entrepreneurship program that will facilitate interactions with experienced U.S. entrepreneurs as part of the Global Innovation through Science and Technology (GIST) initiative. And at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Dubai this December, my office will highlight youth entrepreneurship in the Middle East and North Africa region. It's a thrilling time to be working on youth issues, and I hope to hear from more young innovators and thinkers about how we can improve the lives, and livelihoods, of youth everywhere.

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For more information about the Office of Global Youth Issues, please visit: For updates on the Youth Livelihoods Alliance, follow Twitter hashtags #jobs4youth and #GlobalYouth.