Yet young people have been among the hardest hit by the economic consequences of COVID-19, and the current cost of living crisis is exacerbating the pressure on youth.
Investing in skills, education, quality jobs and mental health will help young people rejuvenate their educational and career prospects, empowering them to face the future with confidence.
Explore this page to take a look at the OECD’s work on youth and its initiatives to bring young people into the policy conversation.
A new vision for youth policy
“The Future We Want”: a message from young people
At the initiative of the Italian Presidency of the OECD Ministerial Council Meeting in June 2022, the OECD has stepped up efforts to put young people and the challenges they face at the heart of policy-making – including placing youth participation as a top priority to build a strong and inclusive recovery.
Securing access to finance is a major obstacle for youth-led social enterprises, according to the 2022 OECD Youth and Social Enterprise (YSE) survey.
Some 76% of respondents said financing was a challenge for such enterprises (defined as private entrepreneurial activity that strives to pursue specific social, environmental and economic goals rather than the maximisation of profit for personal gain), higher than for any other category. Sixty-eight percent of respondents cited access to markets and institutional support structures as obstacles, with business development support and assistance in gaining necessary knowledge and skills also major challenges.
Supporting youth-led social enterprises could boost job prospects for young people while supporting their efforts to drive positive social outcomes. Policy makers are recognising this – and are now developing new strategies and policies to support social enterprise development.
Delivering for youth: How governments can put young people at the centre of the recovery compiles the views of youth organisations from 72 countries on their experiences through the COVID-19 crisis and related government action.
It offers insight into all publicly available national response and recovery plans across OECD countries.
Engaging young people in the labour market is a matter of personal growth and development – and also of economic growth and social cohesion.
The spike in unemployment as economies locked down during the COVID-19 pandemic underlines the disparity in outcomes by age group: the blow dealt to 15-to-24 year-olds was much harder than to older age groups. The resulting scarring effects on young people hits individual well-being and diminishes the productive capacity of economies – highlighting the need to invest in youth to create quality jobs and build confidence in their future prospects.
How can governments and policy makers do more to help?
Of the voting-age population across OECD countries, 34% is between the ages of 20 and 39. This compares to 22% of members of parliament (MPs) aged under 40 (from 36% in Norway to 8% in France).
Young participation in public institutions helps ensure public decisions take account of a plurality of views, which supports accountability of policy decisions while bolstering greater public responsiveness to all citizens’ needs and preferences. And it can help build greater public trust.
Young people have reported much higher levels of anxiety and depression since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic compared with the general adult population. This has widened existing differences.
Data from July 2021 point to 44.8% of young people reporting symptoms of anxiety in the US, compared to 27% for all adults, while 38.6% reported depression compared with 22.1% of adults. Earlier OECD data (from March 2021) showed that young people were 30% to 80% more likely to report symptoms of either depression or anxiety in Belgium, France and the US.
More data and analysis to identify young sub-groups – such as women, LGBTI+ and those from lower socio-economic backgrounds – that may need more support will be needed to better target extra mental health resources.