The Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth

Together, making a difference for young people everywhere

The Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth is a unique collaboration and partnership platform to join efforts to tackle the youth employment challenge and assist Member States in targeting and delivering on a crucial goal of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Today, over 40% of the world’s youth are either unemployed or have a job but live in poverty

Over 73 million young women and men worldwide are looking for a job and more than one-third of those working in developing economies lives on less than US$2 a day. The youth employment challenge is therefore a challenge of both quantity and quality jobs, with important nuances across regions.

In East Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, South-East Asia and the Pacific and sub-Saharan Africa low household incomes and limited access to education drive the majority of youth to informal work at early ages. In the European Union, more than one in three unemployed youth has been looking for work for more than one year. In the Middle East and North Africa, where youth unemployment is highest, young women’s unemployment rate exceeds that of young men by as much as 22 percentage points. The challenge of getting youth into productive work is a global one that demands nothing less than global, coordinated action.

Investments to support young people in the labour market have increased worldwide since the economic crisis. Yet, there is still limited coordination and insufficient scale to address the full dimension of the youth employment challenge. To enhance harmonization and collaboration and to scale-up investments and impact, the Global Initiative acts as the catalyst for global, coordinated action. This strong focus on action is intertwined with three key elements: a multi stakeholder alliance, a knowledge platform, and resources.

Action, the core pillar of the Global Initiative’s Strategy

To stimulate country-level action, scale up existing efforts, and increase impact, the Initiative focus on interventions that are locally owned, ensure clear coherence with national development priorities, and rely on rigorous evidence of what works in different settings. These interventions are concrete and focus on the following multisectorial areas: 
  • Green jobs for youth in collaboration with the Partnership for Action on Green Economy (PAGE);
  • Quality apprenticeships in collaboration, inter alia, with the Global Apprenticeships Network (GAN);
  • Digital skills and “tech-hubs” to improve decent job opportunities for youth in the digital economy;
  • Youth in fragile states;
  • Youth in the informal economy, promoting an integrated strategy for young peoples’ transition to the formal economy in synergy with the current urbanization issue-based process initiated by HLCP/CEB in support of Habitat III;
  • Youth in the rural economy;
  • Linkages to global markets and investments to improve opportunities for young entrepreneurs, also with the Youth and Trade Initiative;
  • Transition to decent work for young workers (15-17) in hazardous occupations. 
The Action relies on the commitment of national and regional institutions and the support of United Nations Country Teams to fully engage a diverse set of local partners, drawing from the rich and varied composition of the Initiative’s multi-stakeholder Alliance.

A global alliance

The Global Initiative is supported by a Strategic Multi-stakeholder Alliance to advocate, ensure policy convergence, stimulate innovative thinking and mobilize resources for more and better investments in youth employment.

The Alliance intends to leverage the full weight of the United Nations system, its knowledge and convening power by bringing together governments, social partners, private sector, youth representatives, entities of the United Nations, civil society, parliamentarians, foundations, the academia, and many more key influential partners.

The Global Initiative was developed by 21 entities of the United Nations, under the leadership of the ILO. Its outreach and membership however go beyond the United Nations system. The Initiative is a platform for ALL partners currently investing and supporting the promotion of youth employment around the world.

Only by working together with governments, social partners, private sector, youth representatives, entities of the United Nations, civil society, parliamentarians, foundations, the academia, we will make a difference for young people everywhere!

The following entities of the United Nations worked collaboratively throughout 2015 to develop the Strategy of this Global Initiative: FAO, ILO, ITC, ITU, UNCTAD, UNDESA, UNDP, UNEP, UNESCO, UNFPA, UN-Habitat, UNICEF, UNIDO, UNRWA, UN-WOMEN, UNWTO, WIPO, the World Bank Group and (ex-officio) the Office of the Secretary- General’s Envoy on Youth. UNHCR and WHO have expressed alignment and support to the Initiative after the official endorsement by the Chief Executive Board of the United Nations on November 2015.

Sharing knowledge

The Global Initiative sets up a global Knowledge Facility to capture, analyse and widely share best practices and innovation, enhance capacity development and facilitate peer learning about what works to improve labour market outcomes for young women and men. This includes learning through South-South and triangular cooperation mechanisms.

Joining resources

The Global Initiative advocates for high level commitment of local and international actors to increase resources through present and future funding facilities to enable scaling up activities in support of decent jobs for young women and men in the most inclusive, efficient, cost-effective, and transparent manner.

The Global Initiative is guided by a series of principles such as the respect for human rights and the application of international labour standards, the promotion of gender equality, and a multi-dimensional and multi-sectoral approach to ensure that youth in different contexts and situations, benefit from coordinated support.

Looking forward

The Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth projects into the future with a clear goal: scaling up action at the country-level and increasing impact through effective, innovative and evidence-based interventions.

Its direct link to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development provides a 14-year window to enhance coordination for effective delivery of decent jobs for all young women and men across the globe.


In October 2014, the High-level Committee on Programmes selected youth employment as a prototype for an issue-based initiative that applies the key elements of the post-2015 development agenda identified by the United Nations
System Chief Executives Board for Coordination, while supporting “fit-for purpose” efforts by mobilizing the capacity of the United Nations system and operationalizing global partnerships.

In November 2015, after a positive review process, the Chief Executives Board for Coordination endorsed the Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth and complimented it as a template for assisting member states implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The Global Initiative was launched in February 2016, under the auspices of the ECOSOC Youth Forum.

We know what needs to be done. We have the experience. Let us join together to promote decent jobs for all."

Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General