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Indicator 1: Distribution of Youth Population by Primary Activity

Definition and rationale

The indicator aims to capture the full extent of activity options of the youth population, delineating between “active” economic activities (employment and unemployment) and “inactive” activities (studying and discouragement). The distribution of the youth population by primary activity includes the following categories: (i) Employed, (ii) Unemployed, (iii) Discouraged, and (iv) In School.

Numerator and denominator and method of computation

Definition of employed: see indicator 3

Definition of unemployed: see indicator 1

The sum of Employed and Unemployed young people equals the Youth Labour Force.

Definition of discouraged: see indicator 3

Definition of in school: A young person who is enrolled in “full-time” education and is neither working nor seeking work. [Note, students who work should be classified among the employed and students looking for work should be classified among the unemployed.]

The sum of Discouraged and in School young people plus a residual category of youth that voluntarily does not work (e.g. housewives) equals the Inactive Young Population.

Relevant ICLS resolutions and guidelines / other international classifications

Resolution concerning statistics of the economically active population, employment, unemployment and underemployment, adopted by the 13th ICLS (October 1982);

Sources and data collection

See indicator 1.

Comments and limitations

Limitations: See indicators 1-3

By reporting on the Distribution of Youth Population by Primary Activity, Lead Countries are also reporting on an important MDG-related indicator, i.e. the Youth Employment-to-Population Ratio, which is the proportion of a country’s working-age and young population that is employed. The indicator can be computed by dividing the total number of employed youth by the population of the same age group:

youth employ to pop

The indicator typically falls between 50 and 75 percent with a higher share indicating that a greater proportion of the population that could be working does work. A low ratio indicates that a large share of the population is neither working nor looking for work. In many countries, the ratio is lower for females than for males

The ratio, both in its level and change over time, can be viewed in connection with economic growth to determine the extent to which economic growth is pro-employment growth and, in connection, pro-poor. Disaggregating by age allows comparisons of youth employment to population ratio with the general employment to population and the adult employment ratios.

To take into account:

  • The employment-to-population ratio indicator measures quantity only. It says nothing to the quality of employment in which people work and this poses a dilemma in terms of prescribing a positive direction for the indicator’s trends over time. An increase in the indicator, meaning a larger share of the country’s population has gained employment, has positive implications on poverty reduction only if the jobs gained are well-paid, productive and secure – in other words, if the jobs gained are decent jobs. Reviewing this indicator along with other indicators for target 1b will provide a broader picture of the direction and quality of employment growth.
  • There is no optimal employment-to-population ratio. Developed economies tend to have lower ratios than developing economies because their higher productivity and incomes means that fewer workers are required to meet the needs of the entire population. Very high ratios, on the other hand, indicate that the majority of poor people are working out of the necessity to subsist regardless of the quality of work.
  • Ratios should be lower for youth than for the overall population (15 years and over) as more young people (as a share of their age group) participate in education in comparison with adults. Unless the young person is working as a principal activity while studying, they will be counted as outside of the labour force (meaning they are not counted among the numerator – youth employed – but remain in the denominator – youth population).

Youth Labour Market Indicators


Last update:02.08.2011 ^ top