Youth entrepreneurship: concepts and evidence

Issue brief | What does it take to succeed? And how might we support entrepreneurship to expand employment opportunities for young people?

Teen using a sewing machine


There are 223 million unemployed or underemployed youth between the ages of 15-24 in developing and emerging economies. However, labor markets in these economies offer limited wage-earning jobs — according to ILO, only 22 per cent and 35 per cent of total employment in low- and lower-middle-income countries is in wage employment. Further, many of these economies are not creating new wage-earning jobs fast enough to absorb the growing workforce.

As a result, fostering entrepreneurship has become a key pillar of the policy agenda in developing and emerging countries to expand employment opportunities for youth. The policy discourse has coalesced around two distinct pathways whereby entrepreneurship can address youth employment:

  1. Growth approach: entrepreneurship as an engine of economic growth and job creation — these are entrepreneurs of all ages that create and grow businesses that will generate jobs for youth, and
  2. Livelihoods approach: entrepreneurship by youth as a means to acquire productive employment and livelihoods for themselves.

This issue brief unpacks the following questions and topics:

  • How is entrepreneurship relevant to the issue of youth employment?
  • How is entrepreneurship defined?
  • Becoming an entrepreneur — entrepreneurship as a dynamic process
  • What are the different types of entrepreneurs?
  • What are the characteristics of successful entrepreneurs?
  • Are individual intentions and skills enough to activate entrepreneurial activity?
  • Do youth entrepreneurship programs work in developing countries?
  • What are some key areas to consider when engaging in entrepreneurship support for youth?
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Andaleeb Alam, UNICEF
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