Promoting formal employment among youth: innovative experiences in Latin America and the Caribbean

International Labour Organization
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The Latin American and Caribbean region faces the daunting challenge of creating decent work opportunities for youth. Currently, the region has some 108 million people aged 15 to 24. Just over half of them are employed.

When youth begin their working lives, they must first overcome the high unemployment rate, which is two to four times higher than that of adults in the Region. All too often, young people go out in search of work only to return home discouraged.

The employment scenario for youth has further complications, however. When a young person eventually does find a job, it is usually an informal one, with poor working conditions, instability, low wages, and no social protection or rights. Currently, six of every 10 new jobs available to youth in the Region are informal. At least 27 million youth are forced to settle for these poor quality jobs. Informality is a serious, persistent problem in the Region.

Informality affects 48% of the employed population, youth and adults alike. Although it is a heterogeneous phenomenon, current statistics reveal the strong link between informality, poverty and social exclusion. In effect, the informality rate is nearly 75% among low-income workers.

Among youth, the informality rate surpasses 55%. This is a troubling statistic given that informality discourages and frustrates youth when they cannot access the opportunities they deserve. Youth today form part of the most educated generation in the history of Latin America and Caribbean, where poverty has declined, yet these improvements elude young people in search of dignified employment.

This situation has social, economic and political repercussions since it may lead to a questioning of the system, instability and disenfranchisement, which can affect governance. Young workers’ potential is not adequately exploited for economic progress. Additionally, there are nearly 20 million youth who neither work nor study.

The youth employment issue is on the political agenda of many countries in the Region. It is the subject of political debate and discussions on socioeconomic development. In response, several countries have taken measures to address informality among youth.

In addition to the strategies that directly address youth employment, many countries have developed and improved activities to eradicate informal employment, which range from increasing productivity and facilitating formalization to guaranteeing social benefits to workers regardless of their employment status.

This report provides a glimpse of the young face of informal employment in Latin America and the Caribbean, and examines the similarities and differences among countries. It describes and analyzes public policy initiatives implemented in several countries of the Region and identifies their innovative aspects and lessons learned. Finally, the document presents policy recommendations.

The objective is to contribute to identifying more effective solutions to address the challenge of youth employment. The creation of more and better jobs for youth must be a priority if we are to advance in the building of more solid economies and more just societies.

Workforce Development
Latin America & the Caribbean
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