MOVING TOWARDS EMPOWERMENT AND INCLUSION | Economic Inclusion, Looking Beyond Employment | The Youth Cafe

The Youth Cafe is taking part in an online consultation on Youth and Peacebuilding at the invitation of Peace Direct and the United Network of Young (UNOY) Peacebuilders! The three days consultations are exploring what youth-led peacebuilding looks like in practice and understanding how to operationalise the principles behind the Youth, Peace and Security Agenda.

Global unemployment is on the rise with a third of the world’s active youth population, about 71 million youth, either unemployed or living in ‘working poverty’. Several factors including market conditions have made it difficult for young people to secure jobs, and the current global rate of youth unemployment stands at 13% (ILO, 2018) – three times that of the adult employment rate.

Young people around the world often have little say in how economic policies are shaped and implemented. Feelings of exclusion, disempowerment, disillusionment and lacking confidence are commonly held among youth towards economic systems, who feel their prospects of financial security are lowered.  

Under such difficult circumstances, many young people seek employment in the informal economy, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. Difficulty in acquiring land, jobs, education and a home can affect their status in society, hamper their ability to transition into adulthood and further contribute to a sense of frustration and exclusion.

Despite most young people remaining peaceful, systematic exclusion and marginalisation can act as a key driver of conflict. As such, it is important to promote active participation in the economy and provide widespread employment opportunities. Economic inclusion promotes equal access to opportunity for all and enables sustainable economic development, ensuring that youth have a stake in the economic system and therefore have incentives to support economic and democratic development in their society.  

However, youth’s economic inclusion needs to be understood beyond just securing jobs. Many youth employment initiatives have focused on ‘supply & demand’ models of hiring, creating short-term, casual and unskilled jobs that have do not consider the needs, aspirations and dignity of young people. Furthermore, according to the Independent Progress Study on Youth, Peace Security, many employment-focused peacebuilding programmes exaggerate the link between employment and peacebuilding and provide limited evidence of peacebuilding outcomes.

However, increased attention is being paid to alternative economic models that can potentially address economic inequalities affecting youth. These include, among others, employee ownership, for-benefits businesses, social enterprises and social and solidarity economies (SSEs)more broadly. These alternative models seek to prioritise the benefits and well-being of community members ahead of maximising profits.

We would like to hear what your opinions are on the subject and whether you have participated in initiatives that have had a meaningful and lasting impact in youth economic empowerment in relation to a broader peacebuilding context.


  1. How do you support young people’s economic inclusion in your context?

  2. How has your economic status impacted your peacebuilding activities – either positively or negatively?

  3. How can we move away from peacebuilding programmes that solely focus on employment to ones that focus on broader economic inclusion?

  4. Can alternative economic models provide impactful peacebuilding outcomes? If so, how can we go about achieving these?

Session summary

Today’s discussions focused on the inclusion, participation and empowerment of youth peacebuilders in the political and economic spheres. We looked at the options and opportunities (or lack thereof) available to young peacebuilders when it comes to their engagement with political processes and economic policies, and we likewise explored the skills and values needed for youth to take on leadership roles in peacebuilding.

We are again impressed by the strong quality of your contributions with over 100 comments made today alone. New participants have joined today’s session, adding on to yesterday’s conversation, so please feel free to have another look at the Day 1 sessions for their contributions.

All comments so far have helped stimulate our discussion by raising thought-provoking points. In this summary we’ve done our best to include a representation of some of the key points raised throughout the day. Please feel free to review and continue to add comments to each of these threads.

Once more, we would like to thank everyone for their participation!

Economic inclusion

Participants highlighted the difficult circumstances that most youth face when it comes to their economic prospects. Many participants agreed that peacebuilding and economic inclusion go hand-in-hand, but noted that youth peacebuilders face economic challenges, often resort to volunteerism and find it difficult to sustain their peacebuilding activities when they struggle to sustain themselves. Participants likewise pointed to challenges with access to education and employment initiatives as being a major barrier to economic inclusion, and much of this was tied to structural failures from government institutions.

To counter this, many participants highlighted approaches to tackle this issue. These included creating social enterprises like agricultural cooperatives, developing livelihood and income-generating programmes, providing career guidance and counselling, and focusing on education initiatives.

We were thrilled to see them exchange ideas and use this digital tool as a means to have an open and fascinating discussion.

Key points:

“If young people are unemployed, it is highly likely that it will lead to violence and/or political instability.” Dishani Senaratne

“Living with an internal struggle of being skillful but not able to obtain desired jobs is difficult. […] This is impacting my mental health, which then impact my wishes for volunteering my time for social good. I have been volunteering continuously for 10 years, but lately, I have been declining offers to take up new community projects.” Khishigjargal Enkhbayar

“Whenever some youth would think of the creation of any entreprise, the government charged a lot of illegal taxes that lead to close the initiative. This is seen like a paradox, instead of encouring people for self employment, the government is discouraging them.” Pife Muliro

“We are living in a century where creativity and technology have changed a lot of assumptions. The best way could be having a good engagement discussion with youth on what works well and what is their mission in life and later form a joint action point to support them in economic inclusion.” Kiduo Mwamnyenyelwa