2016/2017 Annual Report // Rapport Annuel 2016-2017

Youth and Women's Economic Empowerment

Supporting youth and women to secure fair and fulfilling employment

Around the world, youth and women continue to hold disproportionately high rates of unemployment.

Young people have the passion and ambition to contribute to their country’s economy. But they face many difficulties in accessing opportunities to develop the skills and experiences they need to secure fair and fulfilling employment.

Globally, the situation has not improved much in recent years. In 2016, the International Labour Organization (ILO) predicted that global youth unemployment would continue to rise. The ILO also notes that young women are particularly at risk of unemployment due to both their age and gender. Women’s global unemployment rate in 2015 was 0.7% higher than the unemployment rate for men.

Youth between the ages of 15 - 24 comprise approximately 18% of the global population, with a greater concentration of youth living in developing countries. If these countries can empower youth and women to fully participate in the economy, the resulting demographic dividend will be significant. But it will not be realized if we do not act today.


Partnerships for Employment in Sri Lanka


TVET institutions committed to providing training programs that better respond to private sector priorities


youth, including young women, trained and placed in private sector employment opportunities


people reached through a national social campaign on the dignity of labour in the trades and technologies

Skills training opportunities can create more direct pathways to employment.

Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) institutions are key actors in reducing youth unemployment and growing national economies. Through the offering of sector-specific training opportunities, they better prepare young people for employment in the skilled trades.

To be most effective, TVET must be deeply entrenched within existing market systems. Meaningful collaboration between the TVET sector, government, private sector, and civil society is key to closing employment gaps. By increasing their awareness and understanding of real-world employer needs, TVET institutions can develop programs that equip young people with practical and sought-after skills. Potential employers can also better ensure that participation in training programs will result in internships and employment after graduation. This, in turn, can motivate other youth to enrol in TVET programs, increasing the supply of a young, skilled workforce. Governments and civil society can help TVET institutions identify and develop solutions to overcome the barriers that prevent marginalized populations, particularly women, from accessing TVET programs, such as developing safer transportation options and more affordable day care programs.

In many regions of the world, however, TVET institutions cannot increase employment and income-generation alone. In areas where there are simply not enough formal jobs to meet the workforce demand, entrepreneurship training initiatives can create important pathways to self-employment. This is particularly true in sub-Saharan Africa, where mixed livelihoods are common among youth. Entrepreneurship training can empower youth to create their own successes through agricultural work and the development of small businesses.


WUSC is expanding and evolving its approach to youth and women’s economic empowerment.

In 2016/2017, we continued to advance our work for youth economic empowerment in Sri Lanka. Since 2014, we have been working with TVET institutions and potential employers to increase youth employment in the hospitality, construction, ICT, and automotive sectors. Although WUSC has been active in Sri Lanka for over two decades, this latest initiative takes a much more supply-driven approach.

One of the greatest consequences of this approach is that, unlike in our past initiatives, youth must be prepared to secure a job opportunity with potential employers before they begin their training. Securing a job opportunity upfront is more difficult for the marginalized populations we work with, including young women, ex-combatants, and people living with disabilities, as they often do not have the confidence nor experience in advocating for themselves.

Over this past, year we have worked closely with both the youth themselves and potential employers to overcome this challenge. We work with youth to develop their confidence and help them to better see the skills they already possess. We also work with potential employers to better understand the positive role gender equality and social inclusion has in the workplace.

In 2016/2017, we also prepared a national social marketing campaign, launched in July 2017, that seeks to motivate potential employers and broader communities to change their perspectives on the employability of marginalized populations. We aim to reach 8.4 million Sri Lankans with this campaign over the next two years.

We are also expanding our economic empowerment programming in other countries around the world. This past year, we launched new initiatives that aim to provide youth and women with the skills they need to succeed. In Mali, we contributed toward a national program that seeks to foster youth entrepreneurship across the country. We also partnered with CLIC to launch a new initiative for women’s economic empowerment in Jordan, where young women are highly educated, but face staggering rates of unemployment. Over the next five years, we seek to nurture more gender-responsive environments in both training institutions and places of employment to close this significant gender gap.