What is Mercy Corps and how does the organization tackle the issue of youth employment?
Gaza has one of the highest youth unemployment rates in the world at 60 percent. Even though the education system is pumping out university graduates, job opportunities are few and far between. Understanding that the job shortage is a significant constraint, Mercy Corps has sought creative solutions. Through a freelancing model (virtual consulting), we have helped young people overcome local labor market barriers by taking on short-term work opportunities around the world. From their laptops, young Gazans are taking on jobs such as designing logos and translating medical texts with clients from Sydney to Los Angeles to Dubai. They are doing so from their homes, co-working spaces and internet cafes. We are enabling youth to access work by facilitating linkages across borders.
Mercy Corps’ global youth employment programs are more than just training: We promote relevant, demand-driven skills and ensure linkages to safe, decent, and equitable work. Beyond focusing on basic supply and demand, we also address the enabling environment and the informal norms that influence young people’s participation in labor markets through a ‘Making Markets Work for Youth’ (M4Y) approach.
Mercy Corps sees youth as a strategic priority, rather than viewing them as a demographic challenge. We seek to change the narrative around youth and highlight the ways in which young people are driving their economies forward. Since 2010, Mercy Corps has worked with 3.5 million young people across 33 countries. We work across diverse contexts, in some of the most complex labor markets in the world including Syria, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Gaza, and Iraq.
Are you experiencing barriers in your implementation of workforce projects for youth (ages 15-35)?
Globally, one of the primary challenges we face in our employment programs is the availability of appropriate job opportunities for youth. We often find that the number of youth seeking employment far outweighs the number of existing available work positions in a given economy. We can’t link young people to jobs if those jobs don’t exist.
What are some of the best practices or key lessons learned you have developed as a result of these barriers?
Mercy Corps also focuses on demand-side interventions, particularly those that stimulate job creation. In addition to a supportive enabling environment, we believe that strengthening both the supply (skills building, etc.) and demand (SME strengthening, job creation, etc.) sides of labor markets is critical in ensuring positive employment outcomes.
What current tools or measures are you using to target youth in program implementation?
Mercy Corps’ youth-led labor market analysis process ensures that programs are demand-driven, enables young people to develop a firsthand understanding of the needs of local employers, and builds youth skills in interacting with the private sector. This process enables us to identify safe, decent, and equitable work opportunities by gender and age.
Is this tool being used differently in developing vs developed countries?
Yes, Mercy Corps’ youth-led labor market assessment process has been implemented in diverse contexts across the globe, from urban areas in Kenya to informal markets in Syria. The assessment tools are finalized by young people in each geography and are contextualized for each specific labor market.
Does your organization have an advocacy or communications platform that highlights youth unemployment challenges?
Mercy Corps facilitates an internal community of practice to ensure that our global teams have a platform to communicate, share, and learn from one another. Individual programs also manage open learning platforms, including the Promoting Sustainable Partnerships for Economic Transformation (PROSPECTS) program in Liberia.
Do you have any recent publications or upcoming events you would like to have featured to other member organizations for calendar year 2017?
- Mercy Corps & the World of Work
- Mercy Corps’ Youth Employment Cheat Sheet
- Mercy Corps’ Special Series: Youth at a Crossroads
Mercy Corps will be publishing an agency Youth in Agriculture strategy in Spring 2017 and will be hosting a series of webinars to share our approach. Additionally, the Youth Empowered for Success employment program in Africa will be launching a learning blog and digital platform in February 2017.