Tackling high levels of joblessness among young people, UNCTAD and the Commonwealth launch guide to youth entrepreneurship

24 November 2015

​A policy guide for advancing youth entrepreneurship, jointly developed by the Commonwealth Secretariat and UNCTAD, was launched on 24 November 2015 at a business forum taking place ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Malta (27–29 November).

The Youth Entrepreneurship Policy Guide, launched by the Deputy Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Secretariat, Deodat Maharaj, and UNCTAD's Director of the Division on Investment and Enterprise James Zhan, aims to support the creation and strengthening of national systems that provide young people with the entrepreneurial skills, resources and networks they need to start and grow businesses.

According to the International Labour Organization, the world is facing a worsening youth unemployment crisis. Around 73 million young people are out of work and are three times more likely to be unemployed than adults. With more than 60 per cent of the population of Commonwealth countries under the age of 30, finding quality training and a decent job is a serious challenge.

Many young entrepreneurs from a variety of backgrounds and circumstances face age discrimination by suppliers, customers and institutions; a lack of support and belief from family or friends; limited sources of training in entrepreneurial skills and an unfriendly regulatory environment.

A strong entrepreneurial "ecosystem" would lead to relevant school curricula to support entrepreneurial competencies and a focus on innovation. Building public-private partnerships would also improve the overall business environment, enhance network support and ease access to credit and market information.

Commonwealth Secretariat Youth Director Katherine Ellis said: “As youth unemployment hits critical levels, it is vital we create environments conducive to youth entrepreneurship. Given the right opportunities and support, young people have huge potential to drive economic growth. By making this new policy guide available, we hope to help governments invest strategically in the next generation of entrepreneurs."

The Founder President of the Commonwealth Alliance of Young Entrepreneurs - Asia (CAYE-Asia), Rahul Mirchandani, said: “Governments can help build dynamic youth entrepreneurship ecosystems with policy frameworks that serve as catalysts for building cross-border trade, facilitating access to finance, and incentivizing innovative best practices. Young entrepreneurs must also be encouraged to co-create robust peer networks that connect their young businesses with the world.”

The guide includes recommended actions for policymakers and contains around 90 cases of policy measures that have had a positive impact. It encourages governments to develop comprehensive strategies that include policies, programmes and institutions while taking into account national socio-economic factors and development challenges.

It builds on the Commonwealth Guiding Framework for Youth Enterprise – a resource tool designed to assist governments with implementing youth enterprise development programmes – and UNCTAD’s Entrepreneurship Policy Framework, which supports policymakers in developing countries to design initiatives, measures and institutions to promote entrepreneurship.

In partnership, UNCTAD and the Commonwealth Secretariat will offer technical assistance and capacity building based on the guide’s framework to countries that wish to develop their youth entrepreneurship ecosystem.

The Commonwealth Secretariat’s youth development work is delivered through the Commonwealth Youth Programme, which has been supporting member countries for over 40 years.

UNCTAD’s Division of Investment and Enterprise is recognized as a global centre of excellence on issues related to investment and enterprise for sustainable development.