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Updated On: Saturday, November 18 2017

Higher Education is Key to Better Employment in Developing Countries, New Report Finds

Photo: World Bank / Jamie Martin

Content by: South-South News

16 December 2014, New York, USA | Brendan Pastor – In advanced economies like the United States and across the European Union, economists and policy-makers sometimes credit high youth unemployment to a "skills mismatch" crisis.

In a basic sense, youth are unemployed because they are either over-qualified for their current jobs and thus underperform and are underpaid, or their education does not match the field of high-demand jobs. At the end of the day, mismatch boils down to the type of education, not lack of it.

But in other countries across the developing world, skills mismatch refers to something entirely different. According to a new report from the International Labour Organization, chronic youth unemployment or vulnerable employment in low and middle income countries is attributed almost entirely to a lack of higher education.

"The report confirms the role of education in shaping labour market outcomes of young people," Azita Berar Awad, Director of the Employment Policy Department of the ILO, said in a statement following the report's launch in Geneva. "It also highlights the need for more investments in quality education, from primary through academic levels."

Roughly 80 percent of people with post-secondary education are in non-vulnerable employment, the report finds, indicating a link between availability of higher education with quality of work. But even in developing countries, higher education is not always a guarantor of employment.

"Increasing the level of education of the emerging workforce in developing countries will not in itself ensure the absorption of higher skilled workers into non-vulnerable jobs," noted Theo Sparreboom, author of the ILO study.

"Yet, it is clear that continuing to push forth undereducated, under-skilled youth into the labour market is a no-win situation, both for the young person who remains destined for a 'hand-to-mouth existence' based on vulnerable employment, and for the economy which gains little in terms of boosting its labour productivity potential," he added.

But the solution is not to simply build more universities and colleges. Chronic poverty and demands of the family often prevent secondary school students from pursuing higher education. Therefore more fundamental changes to societies are needed, including vast anti-poverty policies, pro-education agendas, and an enabling social protection environment that allows youth to pursue their higher education without disenfranchising families and communities that may depend on them for vulnerable work.

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