You are here: Home News Lack of higher education leaves millions of youth out of decent work in developing countries

Lack of higher education leaves millions of youth out of decent work in developing countries

ILO News, Geneva, 15 December 2014 - ILO study shows that the lack of post-secondary education in lower and middle-income economies leaves the majority of young men and women stuck in vulnerable and informal employment.

outh with post-secondary education living in middle and low-income countries have a much higher chance of finding a decent job than those with only secondary or primary education, says a new ILO publication Is education the solution to decent work for youth in developing economies? .

Building on the results of school-to-work transition surveys conducted in 28 countries worldwide in 2012-2013, the study highlights that having the highest level of education “serves as a fairly dependable guarantee” towards securing a formal job.

On average, eight in ten (83 per cent) young people with post-secondary education were in non-vulnerable employment in the 27 low-to-upper middle income countries examined. The “guarantee” was slightly less prominent among low-income countries, but still 75 per cent of young workers with university degrees managed to find a paid job.

Completing secondary education is not enough to ensure that youth in low-income countries achieve better labour market outcomes. Only four in ten young secondary-school graduates were engaged in non-vulnerable employment, compared to seven in ten in lower and middle-income countries.

More worrisome is that among the low-income countries in the study, one in four young people has no education at all. In some countries, the share of uneducated young people is as high as one-half.

“Increasing the level of education of the emerging workforce in developing countries will not in itself ensure the absorption of higher skilled workers into non-vulnerable jobs,” warns Theo Sparreboom, author of the study.

“Yet, it is clear that continuing to push forth undereducated, under-skilled youth into the labour market is a no-win situation, both for the young person who remains destined for a ‘hand-to-mouth existence’ based on vulnerable employment, and for the economy which gains little in terms of boosting its labour productivity potential,” he added.

A different kind of mismatch

The study also points out that the nature of “skills mismatch” varies a lot between advanced and low-income economies.

In advanced economies, “mismatch” often refers to “over-education”, that is, the difficulty to absorb higher skilled young people who then take up jobs for which they are overqualified.

On the contrary, in low-income economies, the main concern remains the “under-education” of young workers who have no option but to take vulnerable jobs in the informal economy.

The lack of education is largely fuelled by poverty, since youth do not attend school because they cannot afford the costs or because they need to work to help their families.

The lack of education feeds the perpetuation of poverty across generations, as unskilled workers earn lower wages and are unable to fund the schooling of their children.

“The report confirms the role of education in shaping labour market outcomes of young people. It also highlights the need for more investments in quality education, from primary through academic levels,” said Azita Berar Awad, Director of the Employment Policy Department of the ILO.

Work4Youth project

The study is part of the Work4Youth project , a five-year partnership between the ILO Youth Employment Programme and The MasterCard Foundation that aims to promote decent work opportunities for young men and women through knowledge and action.

The surveys were conducted in the following countries.

  • Asia and the Pacific: Bangladesh, Cambodia, Nepal, Samoa and Viet Nam;

  • Eastern Europe and Central Asia: Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the Republic of Moldova, the Russian Federation and Ukraine;

  • Latin America and the Caribbean: Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Jamaica and Peru;

  • Middle East and North Africa: Egypt, Jordan, Occupied Palestinian Territory and Tunisia;

  • Sub-Saharan Africa: Benin, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, the United Republic of Tanzania, Togo, Uganda and Zambia.


Document Actions