There are 1.2 billion adolescents and youth ages 15-24 in the world today – the largest youth population in human history.  Yet, nearly half make-up one-third of the total unemployed global workforce. Young people are not only unemployed but also underemployed due to high working poverty rates, which affects as many as 156 million youth globally.  

A generation at risk:

  • 85% of unemployed youth live in low and middle-income countries
  • 1/3 (500 million) of today’s youth are not in employment, education or training
  • ¼ of young people in the world cannot find work paying more than $1.25 per day
  • ¾ of young workers are engaged in informal employment and at risk of exploitative and hazardous work


"Far too often, the incredible potential in the world’s youth population is wasted by extreme poverty, discrimination or lack of skills and information."
– Mogens Lykketoft, President of the UN General Assembly.


We also know that access to employment is just one piece of the puzzle. Girls and boys often face barriers because of their age, gender and other vulnerability factors, where they are not able to access education or resources to earn money or control the money they make. Girls especially can be excluded and relegated to unpaid care and domestic work, which impedes their economic potential.


Save the Children’s youth economic empowerment programs support young people to successfully transition to decent livelihoods and work. We empower girls and boys with the foundational skills and capabilities, and create environments which enables young people to pursue safe and decent work opportunities. Most importantly we work with youth for youth, where youth have the power to make economic decisions and lead the change they want to see in their communities.


Our approach for adolescent and youth economic empowerment includes three key pillars.



Foundational and market-relevant skills

  • Functional literacy and numeracy
  • Transferable life skills
  • Critical consciousness of discrimination and barriers girls’ and boys’ decent work
  • Leadership and advocacy skills
  • Financial literacy
  • Technical vocational skills
  • Self-employment and entrepreneurship skills


Linkages to resources, services and employment opportunities

  • Financial Services
  • Internships/apprenticeships
  • Enterprise Development Services, i.e. incubators/business hubs
  • Mentorship
  • Employment services


Action to build youth’s economic participation, voice and decision-making power  

  • Supportive environment including facilitator/teacher capacity-building and family and caregiver engagement
  • Gender champions
  • Youth-led community mobilization activities
  • Youth-led advocacy initiatives and campaigns
  • Social behaviour change communications
  • Youth-led research & market assessments

The reality is that today’s youth are tomorrow’s parents, so investing in youth ensures that they are better able to provide for their children’s basic needs, thereby working to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty.


Visit the Youth in Action site to learn more about programming for adolescent and youth economic empowerment.