Young people are central members of society. The United Nations defines youth as people between the ages of 15 and 25. Today, they  number 1.8 billion, or one-fourth of the world’s population. Consequently, young people’s participation in economic, political and community life is essential to facilitating social and economic development, challenging social norms and creating innovations that lead to development for everyone.

Although youth are an important part of society, they still face significant challenges. For many young people around the world, “puberty – the biological onset of adolescence –brings not only changes to their bodies but also new vulnerabilities to human rights abuses, particularly in the arenas of sexuality, marriage and child bearing”.

Social protection is crucial in improving the resilience of families — including adolescents, creating access to further education, combatting unemployment among youth and improving adolescent health outcomes. Studies have shown, for example, that access to social protection significantly reduces HIV infection rates among adolescent girls.

States should invest in social protection programmes that consider the specific needs of youth and incorporate a gender lens. Young women and men face different challenges and have different needs. Young women are particularly vulnerable due to patriarchal cultural norms that may impede their access to education, food security and reproductive rights. Human rights-based social protection systems can help all youth achieve their full potential.

Photo credit: “DSC_0042″  by CAFNR (CCBY 2.0 via Flickr).






Expert Commentaries

Enabling Aspirations, Realizing Rights: Social Protection for Adolescent Girls

Adolescent girls’ rights and their power to drive social change and achieve inclusive are crucial to sustainable human development. This recognition comes at a time of increased global interest in understanding and offering solutions to the challenges girls face as they enter the second decade of their lives. Aspirations and struggles frequently associated with being […]

Strengthening Universality for Youth-Centred Development: The Pacific approach

The Pacific Youth Development Framework (PYDF) 2014–20231 uses human rights principles and social protection approaches to promote inclusive and targeted investment in key youth populations to improve universal access to basic services and opportunities for young people in the Pacific. The PYDF comprises four priority outcomes for youth across the development sectors in the areas […]

Legal Instruments

Iberoamerican Convention on Rights of Youth

Article 28. Right to social protection. Youth  have  the  right  to  social  protection  towards  situations  of  illness,  accident  in  the workplace, disability, widowhood or orphanage and any other situation meaning lack or decrease of means of subsistence or capacity to work. The  States  Parties  shall  adopt  as many measures  as may  be  necessary  to  achieve […]

Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), 1989

Convention on the Rights of the Child Article 26 recognizes for every child the right to benefit from social security, including social insurance. In addition, Article 27(1) recognizes the right of every child to a standard of living adequate for the child’s physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development. Under Article 27(2) and (3), States […]

Legal Cases

Adolescent Sexual Rights in Peru

Nature of the Case In views adopted under the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the UN Human Rights Committee held the Peruvian government accountable for failing to ensure access to legal abortion services essential to the health of the petitioner, thus violating her human rights. Summary In 2002, the […]

Women’s sexual and reproductive rights in the Philippines

Summary In 1991, the Philippines delegated responsibility for “people’s health and safety” to the local level. In exercise of this power, an executive order 003 (“EO 003”) was issued in Manila, in 2000 which declared that the city would take an “affirmative stand on pro-life issues”. In response to a joint submission from NGOs in […]


Promoting Decent Work Opportunities for Roma Youth in Central and Eastern Europe

With this Resource Guide, the ILO would like to enhance knowledge and understanding of all stakeholders of the situation of Roma in the labour market in terms of discrimination, marginalization, and lack of access to resources and services. The Resource Guide brings together relevant international instruments and experiences which can guide and assist European tripartite […]

Panorama Laboral de América Latina y el Caribe 2015

El Panorama Laboral 2015 de América Latina y el Caribe advierte que se registra un “cambio de tendencia” en los indicadores de empleo, con un deterioro en la situación laboral de las mujeres y los jóvenes e indicios de que podría estar subiendo la informalidad a través de “una mayor generación de empleos de menor […]

Employment Failing Young People? Addressing the Supply-Side Bias and Individualization in Youth Employment Programming

International development actors increasingly focus on youth employment as a key development challenge. The recognition of high rates of unemployment, underemployment and job insecurity among young people around the world has led to a plethora of youth employment interventions, as well as often problematic discourses about youth “dividends and “bulges”, which instrumentalize young people and […]

Promoting Youth Employment: policies and programmes

This paper deals primarily with programmes for expansion of youth employment opportunities, paying special attention to generation of self-employment through youth enterprise. Since these programmes cannot be considered in isolation of the nature of youth unemployment and the overall policies for employment creation, the initial sections of the paper focus on the emergence, dimensions and […]

Can Social Protection Improve Sustainable Development Goals for Adolescent Health?

The first policy action outlined in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is the implementation of national social protection systems. This study assesses whether social protection provision can impact 17 indicators of five key health-related SDG goals amongst adolescents in South Africa.   Link to article

UNFPA strategy on Adolescents and Youth: Towards realizing the full potential of adolescents and youth

Today’s adolescents and youth are 1.8 billion strong and form a quarter of the world’s population. They are shaping social and economic development, challenging social norms and values, and building the foundation of the world’s future. While notable progress has been made, many young people – especially adolescent girls – are denied the investments and opportunities that they […]

Children of the Recession: The impact of the economic crisis on child well-being in rich countries

As the data in this new edition of the Innocenti Report Card series show, in the past five years, rising numbers of children and their families have experienced difficulty in satisfying their most basic material and educational needs. Most importantly, the Great Recession is about to trap a generation of educated and capable youth in […]