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Youth employment: Breaking gender barriers for young women and men


One billion young people will reach working age within the next decade. Providing them with the opportunity to secure productive employment and decent work is a societal, national and global challenge. It is no wonder that youth employment is listed high on the international community's agenda. This is the best educated and best trained generation of young men and especially young women ever. Youth employment: Breaking gender barriers for young women and men is the third theme of the gender equality at the heart of decent work campaign.


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Youth employment: Breaking gender barriers for young women and men
While rapid globalization and technological change may offer new opportunities for productive work and incomes for some, for many working age young people the lack of decent job prospects increases their vulnerability in the transition from childhood to adulthood. On average, young people are two to three times more likely to be unemployed than adults, and this is particularly pronounced for young women. Photo:ILO/Deloche P.
Youth employment: Breaking gender barriers for young women and men
The particular dimensions of youth employment vary according to sex, age, ethnicity, educational level and training, family background, health status and disability, amongst others. Young people as a group are not homogenous. Some groups are more vulnerable and face particular disadvantages in entering and remaining in the labour market. The danger is that with a build-up of grievances, vulnerable youth may become 'discouraged youth'. They lose faith in the system of governance that they feel has failed to live up to their expectations, and in severe cases this can lead to political instability and the rise of extremism. Photo:ILO/Crozet M.
Youth employment: Breaking gender barriers for young women and men
Eighty-five per cent of young people live in developing countries where many are especially vulnerable to extreme poverty. The ILO estimates that around 85.3 million young women and men were unemployed throughout the world in 2006, accounting for 44 per cent of all unemployed persons globally. Many more young people are struggling to eke out a living in the informal economy. Child labourers often end up as unemployed, unskilled youth. Photo:ILO/Crozet M.
Youth employment: Breaking gender barriers for young women and men
In cultures where there are pressures to conform to societal expectations by entering early marriages, parenthood is one of the factors that perpetuates the intergenerational cycle of poverty for both young women and men. Many young girls in the developing world have little option but to get married which, given their poor family backgrounds, is most likely just a move from one poor household to the next. In addition, early pregnancy may cause complications. Reproductive health and conditions of work in which young people operate are pressing occupational health and safety considerations. Young people are often given the most dangerous and physically taxing of jobs without adequate training or security measures. Photo:ILO/Gianotti E.
Youth employment: Breaking gender barriers for young women and men
Gender discrimination, cultural traditions and the lack of opportunities often leave women with traditional unpaid, family-based work. This is prevalent among rural youth. Domestic work is an avenue of employment for poor, rural young women who have had little access to education, often from marginalized ethnic groups - those with otherwise low employability. If performed under fair working conditions, domestic work could make a vital contribution to poverty alleviation and provide an opportunity to earn in a socially acceptable manner. However, many are also exploited, working out of view, with difficult working conditions and little or no pay. Photo:ILO/Cassidy K.
Youth employment: Breaking gender barriers for young women and men
The foundations for gender and youth employment are strongly determined in equal access to education for girls and boys. Good quality education remains a key pathway to increasing women's opportunities and to educate a woman is to educate families and societies. Significant progress towards the goal of universal primary education has been made in most regions, with gender parity having been achieved in 118 countries. Photo:ILO/Crozet M.
Youth employment: Breaking gender barriers for young women and men
It is not just the level of education achieved, but the quality and relevance of education and training that is important. Indirect discrimination against girls results in stereotyping them as less interested or capable in certain subjects - for example, maths and sciences. Providing young women and men with formal and non-formal educational possibilities, including vocational training would lead to their empowerment. Photo:ILO/Maillard J.
Youth employment: Breaking gender barriers for young women and men
Stereotyping is frequently found in vocational guidance and counseling on the part of school staff or employment services, and it discourages young women from taking training programmes that would lead them to higher long-term earnings and improved employability. In many countries, for example, young women are encouraged to train in relatively low-skilled and poorly paid 'feminine' occupations with little prospect of upward mobility. These occupations are often related to household work, such as food preparation and garment manufacturing, while young men are encouraged to go for modern technology-based training and employment. Photo:ILO/Maillard J.
Youth employment: Breaking gender barriers for young women and men
Evidence from ILO School to Work Transition surveys shows that in a number of countries young women have a more protracted and difficult transition to working life than young men. Very often they have even more limited access to information channels and job search mechanisms than young men, and importantly, employers in a range of countries revealed a striking preference to hire young men rather than young women for a variety of reasons. Even though there are countries and regions where unemployment is lower for young women than for young men, this often only means that women do not even try to find a job but leave the labour market, altogether discouraged. Photo:ILO/Crozet M.
Youth employment: Breaking gender barriers for young women and men
An important employment challenge is to tackle occupational segregation of traditionally accepted 'male' and 'female' jobs and to break the barriers in opening up professions to both sexes. Unaware of their legal rights and often lacking enough role models, women are only slowly penetrating into the professions traditionally dominated by men. Young women, particularly in developing countries, are often unable to take advantage of training opportunities due to barriers to entry, discrimination in selection and gender stereotyping. Photo:ILO/Crozet M.
Youth employment: Breaking gender barriers for young women and men
What may be considered a mostly feminine profession in one culture is seen as masculine in other part of the world. For example, the information and communication technology sector in Asia employs many women, but it is seen as a predominantly male sector in Europe. Once employed, young women may also not be assertive enough in promoting their achievements or requesting higher pay. Research looking at gender and salary revealed that men asked for more money at eight times the rate of women. Negotiation skills training should also be offered to young women in order to build up their confidence, especially in the context of social dialogue. Photo:ILO/Crozet M.
Youth employment: Breaking gender barriers for young women and men
Although one size does not fit all, meeting the youth employment challenge calls for an integrated and coherent approach that combines macro and microeconomic interventions and addresses both labour demand and supply and the quantity and quality of employment. Action has to be taken in order to avert the growing youth employment crisis. The expected inflow of young people into the labour market, rather than being viewed as a problem, should be recognized as presenting an enormous opportunity and potential for economic and social development. Governments, employers' and workers' organizations, international development partners and civil society need to tap into this vast productive potential of both women and men. Photo:ILO/Maillard J.
Youth employment: Breaking gender barriers for young women and men
Today, there is increased awareness that productive employment and decent work for young people cannot be achieved through fragmented and isolated interventions. Rather, it requires sustained, determined and concerted action by a wide number of actors. Importantly, it requires a coherent approach that articulates supportive policies centered on two basic elements: on the one hand, an integrated strategy for growth and job-creation and, on the other, targeted interventions to help young people overcome the specific barriers and disadvantages they face in entering and remaining in the labour market. This is the general approach of the ILO's Global Employment Agenda. Photo:ILO/Crozet M.

  
  
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Last update: Saturday - 25 October 2014