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 […]


COVID-19 Recovering Rights: Topic Seven | Income Support to Protect Rights

Main Takeaways Urgent measures are necessary to provide sufficient income to millions of people who cannot work due to pandemicrelated restrictions, so that they can still meet their basic needs. Many of these workers lack social and labor protections.  Basic income schemes vary in type, design and implementation. Those that are universal, durable and unconditional […]

Gender and age-responsive social protection: The potential of cash transfers to advance adolescent rights and capabilities

Adolescence is recognized as a window of opportunity for offsetting childhood disadvantage and altering life trajectories. With more than one billion adolescents in the world, and many countries in the Global South experiencing a youth bulge, there is increasing urgency for national governments and donors to provide greater support, services and programming to this age […]

Aspirations matter: what young people in Ghana think about work

Aspirations play a vital role in shaping young people’s life choices, particularly when it comes to making decisions about education and jobs. However, youth employment programmes – which seek to provide young people with the skills and opportunities needed to secure employment and achieve higher living standards – rarely take young people’s aspirations into account. […]

Quality Apprenticeships: Guide for Policy Makers (Volume I)

The ILO Toolkit for Quality Apprenticeships is a resource to improve the design and implementation of apprenticeship systems and programmes. It provides a comprehensive but concise set of key information, guidance and practical tools for policy-makers and practitioners who are engaged in designing and implementing Quality Apprenticeships. The toolkit presents examples of good practice from […]

Adolescents with disabilities: enhancing resilience and delivering inclusive development

Around the world, there are between 93 million and 150 million children and adolescents with disabilities. An estimated 80% live in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), where 80% of persons with disabilities live below the poverty line. While we know that adolescents with disabilities are far more likely than their peers without disabilities to be […]

Adolescents with disabilities: Enhancing resilience and delivering inclusive development

Around the world, there are between 93 million and 150 million children and adolescents living with disabilities. Most of those children (80%) live in the global South, where 80% of persons with disabilities live below the poverty line. Children and adolescents with disabilities are far more likely than their peers without disabilities to be denied […]

Engaging Employers in Apprenticeship Opportunities: Making it Happen Locally

This joint OECD-ILO publication provides guidance on how local and regional governments can foster business-education partnerships in apprenticeship programmes and other types of work-based learning, drawing on case studies across nine countries. There has been increasing interest in apprenticeships which combine on the job training with classroom-based study, providing a smooth transition from school to […]

Improving the Safety and Health of Young Workers

The ILO has prepared this brief for the 2018 World Day for Safety and Health at Work, which aims to promote a safe and healthy generation. The goals of the brief are to describe the OSH risks faced by young workers and to encourage a global conversation on the need to improve their safety and […]

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 […]

Social Protection and Human Rights