Research on the Future of Work for: the Empower Youth for Work (EYW) Oxfam project

The IDS Digital and Technology Cluster, in collaboration with our colleagues in Rural Futures worked with Oxfam Novib’s Empower Youth for Work (EYW) programme on an important new research report. EYW aims to enable young people (especially young women) in rural climate-affected areas of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Ethiopia to seek and obtain decent work. The report shows the urgent need for policies that are fit for the future of work for rural youth, in the face of rapid changes in our technological, climate and political realities.

Oxfam has identified Four megatrends which are shaping rural youths’ future livelihoods: without the right interventions these trends risk increasing the inequalities already faced by rural youth. 

  1. Technological change: In some countries, automation is threatening livelihoods and closing down traditional paths to rural development. Whilst digitization offers new opportunities for employment, women are often left behind.
  2. Demographic change: One out of every six people on the planet is aged between 15 and 24, and most of these young people almost one billion of them live in developing countries.
  3. Environmental pressures: Rural youth typically work in sectors which are especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change, such as agriculture.
  4. Shifting power: Shifting power: NGOs face a challenging environment, where only 3% of the world’s population now live in countries with open civic space. This threatens progress towards reducing inequality, since it is often marginalized and deprived groups who civil society seeks to empower and protect.

We ‘tested’ youth policies from the four EYW countries to assess whether they address these trends and anticipate the future of work. We found that while they work well in terms of their overall approach and focus on the enabling environment, they anticipate the future of work in only a limited fashion and with worrying little attention to technological and environmental change.

The very different political and economic landscapes of the EYW countries – Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Ethiopia – makes it challenging to offer ‘one size fits all’ answers, but it is hoped that the findings from this research provide valuable insights.  Our  findings will be used to develop strategies to influence government stakeholders and the private sector and as input to formulate policy recommendations to cope with a changing future of work in a way that reduces inequality.

Without the right interventions, these trends risk increasing the inequalities young people already face – the economic and gender inequality that affect their life chances and the nature of work available to them.Youth are three times more likely to be unemployed than adults and irregular work and a lack of formal employment and social protection leads to working poverty, which affects as many as 169 million young people globally.  Rural young women face triple and overlapping discrimination on the basis of their gender, rural location and age. Women’s disproportionate responsibility for care work perpetuates gender and economic inequalities.  

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Project details

start date
1 October 2019
end date
31 March 2020


Supported by
Oxfam Novib

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