Youth employment – harnessing the potential of young people

Apprentices in Albania working on a thermo-hydraulic machine
SDC supports the creation of vocational education and training opportunities in line with the needs of the labour market and in cooperation with the private sector. © SDC

Young people in developing and transition countries are often unable to find work that matches their skills.  The SDC ensures that efficient structures are put in place to facilitate the transition between vocational training and the world of work.  Cooperation between the public and private sectors can create relevant training opportunities for young people, which in turn helps them find meaningful employment. 

The SDC’s focus

The SDC supports the private sector and vocational education and training (VET) systems in its partner countries to become more effective and accessible. It aims to ensure that the training young people receive improves their chances of getting a job. To do so, the SDC tailors its projects to the local context and helps create economic opportunities – whether in the form of a job or self-employment –  for young people who are particularly disadvantaged such as the long-term unemployed, ethnic minorities, women or young people living in areas with little infrastructure.  The SDC’s strategy for youth employment focuses on three areas:

  • High-quality training adapted to the labour market
    The SDC places particular emphasis on the cooperation of private industry and training institutions in its partner countries, especially when it comes to drawing up training curricula, as well as in regard to their implementation and certification.  Based on dialogue between training and education institutions, companies and associations as well as state and private employment services, the SDC identifies and defines the occupations that are in demand on the market and the specific skills required.  This cooperation ensures that training opportunities match the demand for specific skills, and helps to increase the quality and relevance of training. The SDC also looks for innovative approaches to meet the needs of both the market and young people and to improve their specialist and social skills.
  • Efficient job placement services
    The SDC aims to strengthen vocational counselling services to ensure that young people and their parents are aware of occupations that offer a promising future and to overcome prejudices.  Once young people complete their training, placement services support them by providing information on suitable jobs. The placement services are also actively involved on the labour market to help young job seekers who are difficult to place, by finding them internships or short courses, for example.
  • A vibrant and transparent economy In order for companies to create additional jobs, they require an economic environment that is business-friendly, transparent and stable.  Small and microenterprises are of particular significance here since in a number of countries they often provide the majority of jobs.  The SDC aims to improve conditions for employers, promote start-ups and help improve regulatory and economic market conditions by supporting policies and projects to promote good governance, and the private and financial sectors.


According to the International Labour Office (ILO), mismatched skills between labour supply and demand on the labour market for young people is a persistent and growing trend. According to estimates, the global unemployment rate for young people reached 13.1% in 2017, with an increase in cases of long-term unemployment. In developing countries, which account for 90% of the world’s population of young people, two-thirds of young people are under-employed.

There are many reasons for this: on the one hand, there are not enough jobs in developing and transition countries; on the other hand, young people often have only limited access to the labour market due to their lack of qualifications, work experience and networks. As time goes by, the distinction between employment and unemployment becomes blurred for job seekers, especially since the number of temporary and part-time jobs is rapidly increasing. The young people who occupy these insecure jobs are seldom in a position to exert the influence needed to improve their situation. As a result, many young people turn to the informal sector for jobs.  This sector is known for precarious working conditions, a lack of legal protection and social benefits, and a loss of tax revenue for the state. The challenges for Africa are particularly large: young people make up more than 50% of the population in most countries, population growth is high and migration, particularly rural-urban migration, is increasing. 

To meet the needs of a jobs market that is constantly changing, in particular with the introduction of new technologies, young people must have access to relevant and high-quality education and training developed in partnership with the private sector.