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

Decreto 839 – Ley de Protección Integral de la Niñez y Adolescencia

Este Decreto establece la protección de la niñez y adolescencia. Es el deber del Estado, como a los padres y madres, adoptar todas las medidas necesarias para proteger a la familia (art. 7). En principio de corresponsabilidad, la garantía de los derechos de las niñas, niños y adolescentes corresponde a la familia, al Estado y […]

Ley orgánica para la promoción del trabajo juvenil, regulación excepcional de la jornada de trabajo, cesantía y seguro de desempleo

El paquete de reformas laborales de Ecuador incluye la ampliación voluntaria de licencia por maternidad o paternidad hasta nueve (9) meses, sin goce de sueldo, para atender al cuidado de los hijos dentro de los primeros doce (12) meses de vida del niño o niña. El padre tiene derecho a una licencia por paternidad de […]

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 […]


Youth Labour Market Prospects and Recent Policy Developments

Youth continue to face important labour market challenges today, often significantly greater than their adult counterparts. While unemployment rates have fallen in recent years, long-term unemployment remains persistently high as does the share of youth neither in employment nor in education or training. This raises concerns about the consequences of a prolonged joblessness among youth […]

Case Studies and Exercises on Unemployment Protection Based on the Fictional Country of Coresia

The case studies and exercises on unemployment protection based on the fictional country of Coresia is part of the training material of the Unemployment protection: A good practices guide and training package, Experiences from ASEAN. The training material was produced under ILO/Japan Project, Promoting and Building Social Protection in ASEAN, launched in 2011. The five […]

Adolescent Girls and Education: challenges, evidence and gaps

In recognition of the criticality of adolescence, the severity of deprivation adolescent girls face, and the opportunities we have to support girls, there has been considerable recent interest in better understanding adolescent girls’ lives. Of particular interest have been the pathways out of poverty for girls, with education being one of the main avenues. Access […]

Adolescents’ Mental Health: Out of the shadows: Evidence on psychological well-being of 11-15-year-olds from 31 industrialized countries

It is the right time to channel more public investment for comprehensive support of children’s and adolescents’ mental health and well-being. Target 3.4 under Goal 3 of the Sustainable Development Agenda explicitly aims to ‘promote mental health and well-being’, while the WHO Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan for 2013-2020 emphasizes the importance of children “having […]

The European Youth Guarantee: A systematic review of its implementation across countries

The European Youth Guarantee (YG) is one of the most innovative labour market policies of recent years. It arrived at a time when an urgent and radical response was needed to address the detrimental long-lasting consequences of long-term unemployment. This article examines empirical evidence on the effectiveness of past youth guarantee experiences, as well as […]

Career Advice and Placement Services in Sierra Leone (One-Pager 356)

Approximately 70 percent of Sierra Leone’s youth population are either underemployed or unemployed, and 50 percent are classified as either illiterate and/or unskilled. There is visible unemployment, particularly among young men. Although there have been improvements in the youth situation compared to before the civil war, many of the conditions that helped fuel the youth […]

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 […]