Highlight: Youth (Un)Employment: Global problems meet local solutions

July 07, 2016

IDRC and Aga Khan Foundation Canada (AKFC) partnered to spark discussion on global youth unemployment at a panel hosted by the University of Ottawa in October. The panellists shed some light on the dynamics of youth employment in Canada and in the developing world.

Gordon Betcherman, a professor at the University of Ottawa’s School of International Development and Global Studies and co-author of the World Bank’s 2013 World Development Report, Jobs, spoke about the need to broaden knowledge and understanding of youth unemployment.

“Our notions of employment need to be broader. We can’t get too hung up on definitions when we talk about youth unemployment, because there is a huge knowledge gap between what we consider formal employment, and informal employment,” says Betcherman.

“In the developing world, many youth who might be considered unemployed according to certain standards are actually gainfully employed. They are engaged in household enterprises, family businesses, the informal economy, small-scale agriculture, or self-employed. These are things we don’t always take in consideration.”

Breaking down barriers to youth employment

Abdul Malik, leader of the Aga Khan Rural Support Program in Pakistan, highlighted the critical roles that education and entrepreneurship play in creating new and improved employment opportunities for youth.

“While youth in developing countries often have to grapple with certain social barriers to employment, especially for women, they often face the very same barriers as their counterparts here in Canada, most notably a skills mismatch between education and the private sector,” says Malik.

“Young people who pursue higher education rarely acquire the hard skills, or technical skills, that are valued in the labour market, and the private sector often has little incentive to make up for this mismatch by hiring young inexperienced workers,” he says. “This is a problem that affects youth around the world, from Canada to Pakistan.”

The session was moderated by Erin Markel of MarketShare Associates, which supports innovative economic development programming, especially for women and youth.

It was the third stop for Abdul Malik in AKFC’s cross-country tour to promote discussion on youth unemployment in the developing world. Tour stops also include the University of Calgary, the University of Toronto, Montréal’s McGill University, and Dalhousie University, Halifax. Funding for the tour was provided by Global Affairs Canada.

Find out more about AKFC’s cross-country panels on Youth (Un)Employment: Global Problems Meet Local Solutions

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Louis Turcotte is an Ottawa-based writer.