Productive work for youth

Switch on your future: UNIDO's "productive work for youth" programme

Globally, 9 out of 10 jobs are created by the private sector, a primary driver of economic growth and employment creation. By February 2014, over 600 million young women and men aged 15 to 24 years are neither in school nor receiving training, working or looking for work; over 70 million young women and men are unemployed, and an estimated additional 73.4 million young people worldwide are expected to be out of work. 

To achieve inclusive and sustainable industrial development it is thus necessary to invest in a growth-oriented private sector, in its supporting business structures, the civil society and ultimately in young women and men, who often drive society’s socio-economic development and innovation. 

At present, young women and men in many countries face numerous obstacles to engage in productive activities: they find it difficult to access capital for start-up or to grow their business as they are perceived as high-risk due to their age and limited entrepreneurial experience; business development services are often lacking, hard to access, and not geared towards the particular needs of young entrepreneurs; they are often less knowledgeable about networks, markets and investment opportunities and sources of information than older players; and the educational and training system does not provide them with the skills required to land a job in the private sector. 

To tackle these issues and boost employment, entrepreneurship and inclusive and sustainable industrial development, UNIDO has developed an integrated approach that assists governments and supports structures to serve young people who want to create and develop sustainable enterprises, and ultimately improve their livelihoods.


The UNIDO approach of "productive work for youth" consists of:

  • Fostering the entrepreneurial culture by introducing entrepreneurship courses and entrepreneurship training in universities and vocational training institutes.

  • Assisting young entrepreneurs who are seeking to set up an enterprise with analyzing markets and value chains to identify sectors and value chains with high potential for young entrepreneurs; (b) assisting young potential entrepreneurs in setting up their businesses; and (c) conducting a financial appraisal of the business idea through UNIDO’s financial appraisal software (COMFAR).

  • Assisting entrepreneurs in identifying adequate forms of financial schemes, depending on the context and target group: (a) grant scheme; (b) revolving fund; or (c) guarantee funds.

  • Once the entrepreneur has started or upgraded his micro-, small- or medium-sized enterprise (MSME), UNIDO offers various support services related to counseling, investment promotion, technology upgrading, and business linkages which help further develop MSMEs and create more jobs.

Impact and results

As a result of this programme, UNIDO has successfully engaged in the creation of youth employment opportunities through supporting the creation and expansion of MSMEs in over 15 countries. Results include:

  • A strengthened entrepreneurial culture and the promotion of youth entrepreneurship as a viable solution to create employment;

  • Facilitated access to finance for MSMEs and start-ups through linkages with local financial institutions or the setting-up of dedicated funds to fill market gaps;

  • Improved public and private business service providers, particularly when it comes to catering for young women and men;

  • The creation of youth-led enterprises that outlive the start-up phase;

  • The creation of long-term, productive employment opportunities for young men and women.