Saharan Africa, and the Middle East, which are currently experiencing unprecedented growth in the size of their youth populations. Rates of growth in the size of the potential youth labor force (ages 15-24) have now peaked in most countries even though the absolute numbers continue to grow. Because youth opportunities for employment depend on broader economic trends that can vary greatly over time and across countries, significant fluctuations are likely to occur in how well youth are integrated into the labor market in the future.


Household poverty is strongly associated with child labor; trends in poverty are an important explanation for trends in child labor. While most young people live in parts of the world in which poverty rates are falling, a rising proportion of young people in sub-Saharan Africa are growing up in poor households. And it is in sub-Saharan Africa where there is evidence that rates of child labor are growing. These trends in sub-Saharan Africa widen the gulf between young Africans and their peers in other parts of the developing world, raising further concerns about Africa’s future prospects.


A rising proportion of young women are entering the labor market, particularly in paid employment, but rates of participation among young women still vary widely across the developing world. Thus, for more and more women, adult work roles will include paid employment in the labor market. For an increasing number of young women who have the opportunity to earn money in the labor market before marriage, paid work is likely to mean that they can have greater control in meeting their own needs as well as contributing to family income and, through these changes, they may have greater say in decision-making in the family.


More educated young workers have higher earnings, greater job stability, and greater upward mobility over time compared with their less educated peers. These patterns, however, coexist with strong labor market trends toward deregulation and privatization that may have made labor markets more unstable relative to the past.

Policy Recommendations

Policies and programs with implications for young people’s successful transitions to work in developing countries exist at all levels of action: international, national (both developed and developing country policies), and local. Policies that enhance successful transitions to work include those that attack the root causes of poverty, enhance economic growth, improve learning outcomes in school and on the job, ensure equity of opportunity and pay regardless of race, gender, or class, and prevent harmful and unfair



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