Drivers and Priorities for Urban Youth Economic Inclusion

cities of opportunity

Youth Inclusive Cities – A Critical Priority

Historically, cities have been drivers of economic growth and have served as a magnet for investment and migration. However, today, many cities struggle to absorb, provide services to, and harness the power of their rapidly growing populations.

Urban environments can, however, provide many of the ingredients that can drive a young person to create and maintain a safe, secure, and prosperous livelihood that contributes to the city’s economic growth.

The following proposes several priorities that youth development implementers could consider to enhance the effectiveness and impact of economic opportunity programming targeting youth in cities.

7 Drivers Of Youth Economic Opportunity and Inclusion

These seven drivers are especially important for young people in cities as they are those that youth are most likely to encounter as they seek employment and economic independence. Being aware of these drivers is an important starting point to forming any youth economic opportunity program.

  1. Agglomeration – Cities tend to offer more proximate services including health, education, finance and businesses. Further, a freer flow of ideas can stimulate entrepreneurship and lead to greater innovation.

  2. Human Capital – Urban economies are naturally dynamic, and as the demands of the labor market shift more quickly, youth will need to keep up. As cities become increasingly service- and knowledge-oriented, young people will need a distinct set of soft skills and technical competencies that current standard curricula and pedagogies may not be incorporating.

  3. Information – Information and connectivity are important to youth’s access to and participation in economic opportunities. For example, skills mismatch and labor market inefficiencies result when youth don’t know about vacancies and when employers do not have the networks to tap into the communities of youth most suitable for work. Urban youth who often rely on information through informal word of mouth connections are often left out of critical information loops.

  4. Adequate Infrastructure – Housing, transport, electricity and communications infrastructure play a crucial role in urban life. In developing countries, transport in particular plays two principal roles – it determines the cost (financial, time) of commuting as well as the cost of moving goods within and between cities and peri-urban areas.

  5. Migration – Young migrants are a likely source of innovation and leadership for their adoptive cities. However, they may also arrive with high expectations for a better life and can quickly become disillusioned when they don’t have the right skills, work is hard to find, and/or pay is low.

  6. Transparent and Participatory Governance – Cities need efficient, accountable institutions and public leadership. Municipal governance faces increasing demands for openness, transparency and participation – especially by its younger citizens – who may feel they have more to lose if excluded.

  7. Supportive regulatory and policy environment – On the demand side, private-sector growth and job creation in cities requires a conducive investment and business climate; one where commerce, trade, and entrepreneurship can flourish.

Positive Youth Development and Urban Development Principles

priorities for urban youth economic opportunity programsPrograms to promote youth economic opportunities in cities should not only be designed to activate or speed up the drivers outlined above, but should also be rooted in positive youth development and urban development principles.

For example, considering holistic wellbeing needs, promoting youth participation, and involving youth as partners, and leveraging technology and innovation are critical positive youth development principles to be taken into consideration by youth economic opportunity practitioners.

Further, urban development principles such as empowering a range of stakeholders, fostering market orientation and public private collaboration, and providing reliable infrastructure are key priorities that youth economic opportunity practitioners should consider in urban specific design.

Urban Youth Economic Opportunity Priorities

After analyzing external factors that affect a young person’s ability to take advantage of economic opportunities and reflecting upon best practices in positive youth development and urban development, Making Cents identified the following six elements as key priorities for urban specific youth economic opportunity program design.

Why now?

Youth are expected to comprise over 60% of urban populations by 2030 and remain unemployed and excluded at much higher rates than adults. Further, by 2050, it is projected that 6.3 billion people (approximately 64% of the world’s population) will reside in cities. As a result, the global economic and demographic landscape warrants an increased focus on understanding how cities can be more youth inclusive and promote economic opportunities among their younger inhabitants.

To learn more, download the full publication, “Cities of Opportunity – Drivers and Priorities for Urban Youth Economic Inclusion” authored by Making Cents and funded by the Citi Foundation