What place for young people? Access to employment in developing countries
Florence BOYER (geographer, Institute of research for development, France), Charlotte GUÉNARD (economist, University of Paris 1)
Because of lagged demographic transitions on different continents, young people today face highly differentiated employment opportunities. In Sub-Saharan Africa as well as in the Arabic countries, which began their demographic transition earlier, the young people who massively enter the labour market are at the heart of present demographic and social challenges: unemployment, employment precariousness, saturated urban informal sector, generational tensions, constrained desires for autonomy. The “Arabic revolutions” have brought out the yearnings of increasingly qualified young people unemployed or occupying positions that do not match their skills. In emerging countries, in Latin America or in Asia, young people will have to support the burden of an increasing number of inactive people: as a result of the absence of generalized pension systems, the termination of activity may be delayed at the end of the life cycle, leading to competition for employment between different generations while the eldest remain the responsibility of their descendants.
While farming largely remains a family affair In Sub-Saharan Africa, rural activities tend to diversify a process to which the younger generations contribute in still relatively unclear conditions. In that region, the young people remain massively rural in spite of the fast growth of the cities, which still attract people and activities. The population distribution and the economic activities are more concentrated in cities in Latin America, where young people are essentially urban. In Asia, the situation is intermediary due to a relative under-urbanization: economic activities and employment are still massively located in rural areas, but due to rapid urbanization, urban people should be the majority by 2030. From one continent to another and from one environment to another, young people face unequal opportunities resulting from changes on labour markets – steep decrease in public sector recruitments for example – and from educational differentials.
Facing difficulties using their skills, young people struggle to build their future around key moments: end of schooling, entry into the working world, end of cohabitation and/or migration, first marriage and family formation. Entering the working age is often not independent from the family sphere where collective choices of activity, income diversification, etc. are made. The previous generations more or less largely hold the economic power and may be in a position to influence the activity choices and projects of the young people while they themselves expect that a higher level of education as compared to their elders should allow them to target a better professional career.
In the past, social sciences have focused on young people in public space. They have more recently turned to research on specific categories of workers: women, homeworkers, small tradespeople in the informal sector. The purpose of this issue is to conduct an in-depth analysis of the employment situation of young people in developing countries in terms of gaining access to employment and working conditions, and to emphasize the different constraints young people face.
Proposals for this issue might address, but not exclusively, the following themes:
- Integration in employment. Under what conditions and in which contexts do young people start working? Does finding a first employment or diversifying their activities imply an internal migration, mobility between rural and urban areas, or even an international migration for the young people? Do they mobilize their personal or family networks for their professional insertion? Does access to a first employment, even precarious, constitute a step toward new opportunities in their professional and migration history? Do they benefit from public incentives or assistance in finding employment? Are they victims of discrimination?
- Working conditions and remuneration. What are the working conditions of young people? What are their levels of remuneration? In which sectors are they more likely to work? Do they find employment in the formal or informal sector? Are there important gender differences in their working conditions and remuneration? Are young women concentrated in precarious positions due to their level of education, employers’ policies, family decisions, or because of a temporary personal positioning on the labour market?
- Youth autonomy, intergenerational relationships. What are the professional aspirations of the youth in developing countries today? Who makes the decision regarding their search for employment and their career choice? How are know-hows inherited and negotiated from one generation to the next? What are the main transmission channels of experience and know-how (family, apprenticeship, social networks) ? Are young people willing to avail of the legacies of previous generations or do they want to break free for more autonomy in decision making?
- Social and professional mobility. do young people occupy “better” positions than their elders at the beginning of their professional life at the same age? What is their perception of their future occupational mobility? Are their success models different from those of their elders? Do they experience an upward or downward mobility in comparison with the previous generations? What can be the professional insertion of young graduates when they return to their country of origin?
Autrepart invites researchers in the fields of anthropology, demography, economics, geography, history, political science and sociology to address these questions.
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