Globally, young people account for approximately 24 percent of the working poor and this dynamic is particularly pronounced in Africa, where over 70 percent of youth subsist on US$2 per day or less. Although the world’s youth population is expected to grow, employment and entrepreneurial opportunities for young women and men remain limited – particularly for those living in economically stagnant rural areas of developing countries.
The majority of rural youth are employed in the informal economy as contributing family workers, subsistence farmers, home-based micro-entrepreneurs or unskilled workers. They typically earn low wages, are employed under casual or seasonal work arrangements and face unsafe, often exploitive working conditions that compel many to migrate to urban areas. Re-engaging youth in agriculture requires addressing the numerous constraints that they face when trying to earn a livelihood. Among others, they include insufficient access to skills development and education; limited access to resources such as land; and low levels of involvement in decision-making processes. Rural youth are also typically excluded from those institutions that provide access to financial services – such as credit, savings and insurance –which further hinders their ability to participate in the sector.
The role of FAO:
Through policy assistance and awareness-raising, FAO seeks to develop a strong enabling environment in which young people can thrive and seize current and future decent rural employment opportunities. In particular, FAO works to:
Develop innovative and field-tested approaches that address the constraints rural youth face in accessing decent work. For example, FAO’s private and public partnership model for youth employment in agriculture is designed to strengthen young people’s skills using FAO’s Junior Farmer Field and Life Schools methodology; it facilitates their access to land, credit and markets; and enhances their ability to partake in policy debates relevant to their well-being.
Support governments in the design and implementation of strategies that more effectively target rural youth. FAO also works with governments to integrate youth issues into national agricultural investment plans (NAIPs). In Nigeria, for instance, it supported the design of an investment plan for the National Youth Employment in Agriculture Programme (YEAP).
Generate more country-specific research to advise stakeholders about employment conditions and opportunities in their respective countries. This can include analyses of a given country’s labour market conditions, youth employment situation and untapped opportunities for rural employment generation.
Advocate and further rural youth needs at global level. For instance, FAO is a member of the United Nations Inter-Agency Network on Youth Development (IANYD). The aim of IANYD is to increase the effectiveness of UN work in youth development, including youth employment, by strengthening collaboration and exchange among all relevant UN entities and other partners.