Globally, 85 per cent of the world’s young people live in developing countries, and an ever-increasing number of them are growing up in cities. It is estimated that by 2030, as many as 60% of all urban dwellers will be under the age of 18. All over the world, young people are finding it increasingly difficult to break into the labour market. Youth make up 25% of the global working age population, but account for 43.7% of the unemployed. This means that almost every other jobless person in the world is between the ages of 15 and 24.
The exclusion from the economic, political, and social life of their countries breeds disillusionment, hopelessness, and upheaval. Research has found links between youth unemployment and social exclusion, and suggests that this may lead to political and social instability, and possibly to violence. Action is required to achieve economic prosperity for, and the inclusion of, the youth. Although evidence shows that governments and cities are making efforts to tackle youth poverty and their lack of engagement in governance, resources to undertake such interventions are very limited. UN-Habitat recognizes the potential of the youth as a major force for creating a better urban future.
Strategies for integrating the youth in cities
Some of the greatest challenges cities face today is generating data on the challenges that the youth encounter, including access to basic services such as education; sanitation and housing; underemployment and unemployment; and exclusion from decision-making. Without this data, city officials are unable to develop strategies that attend to this exclusion. For example, without local labor market information, it is difficult to plan effective employment training interventions that reduce unemployment. On the basis of experience gained through its Urban Youth Research Network (a global network of urban youth experts), UN-Habitat provides a range of research and strategic planning services, including:
- national or city-level empirical research on the challenges and opportunities of urban youth populations;
- national or city-level workshops to discuss the results of the research on urban youth; and
- participatory formulation of a national or city urban youth strategy, which encompasses skills development, job creation, sports, and recreation.
Increasing cities’ understanding of the youth
UN-Habitat is one of the preeminent international agencies working on urban youth policy, research, and programming. Through its Urban Youth Research Network (a network of 15 key research agencies focusing on urban youth, such as the Children, Youth and Environment Centre and the International Institute for Child Rights and Development), UN-Habitat seeks to enhance national and city level decision-makers’ understanding of the challenges facing urban youth, as well as of the opportunities for dealing with those challenges.
One of UN-Habitat’s flagship reports, the State of Urban Youth, is launched biannually as part of the State of the World Cities report. The World Urban Forum Dialogue series on Urban Youth is a biannual publication launched at the World Urban Forum, which highlights cutting edge research on urban youth issues. UN-Habitat’s city partners use the Series to develop programmes that engage youth and help them to become productive citizens. UN-Habitat assists cities in their policies and programming by providing research services. It utilizes its networks and extensive experience in this field to produce high-quality products tailored to the needs of cities.
“One-stop model” for urban youth development
Though youth are vital to the prosperity of cities in the developing world, they still face many barriers — most notably underemployment and unemployment, and a lack of access to basic services such as healthcare and education — which prevent them from reaching their potential. UN-Habitat has worked with cities globally to overcome these barriers through the development of programmes that achieve three key objectives:
- Improve youths’ livelihoods by increasing their employability
- Decrease their vulnerabilities
- Integrate them fully into the economic and social life of the city
These programmes assist youth to become leaders in their communities and to lead healthy and productive lives. Over the past nine years, UN-Habitat has established, together with its partners, “One-stop Centres” in five African cities with plans to expand to Asia and Latin America. Each “One-stop Centre” is unique in the programmes it delivers, responding to the needs of the local youth population. Its core programmes are sports and recreation, job skills and entrepreneurship training, health services such as HIV/AIDs testing and counselling, and support for youth-led governance and planning. The “One-stops” are built on partnerships between UN-Habitat and the local government, civil society, youth, and the private sector to develop programmes which respond to the needs of the youth.