Combatting youth unemployment and poverty with skills development: ETF and Thailand share experience

28 June 2023
A group photo of the governmental delegation of the Kingdom of Thailand and UNICEF.
ETF Europa

The rising share of youth who are Not in Employment, Education, or Training (NEET) in Thailand represents a concerning social and economic phenomenon. Today, nearly 1.4 million (or 15 per cent) youth aged 15-24 years in Thailand are NEET, and a recent UNICEF-led study found a majority of NEETs lack motivation to develop skills or work due to a perceived lack of opportunities.

“We must address the issue of young people in poverty in Thailand now otherwise it will be an even bigger problem in the future,” said Dr. Wanchat Suwankitti, Deputy Secretary-General of the Office of the National Economic and Social Development Council during the recent visit of a government delegation from Thailand to the European Training Foundation (ETF) premises in Turin. 

The purpose of this visit is to engage in a week-long peer learning program in Italy. The itinerary includes visits to the Public Employment Services, regional authorities, education and training providers in the regions of Piemonte and Veneto. The primary objective of these visits is to acquire knowledge about youth-related programs and measures designed to tackle the issue of youth unemployment. It is important to note that the Youth Guarantee Scheme has been successfully implemented in the Western Balkans. Similar initiatives are also being planned for other regions within the European Union's neighborhood.

Thailand like many of the EU Member States is facing the challenges related to an ageing population combined with rising youth unemployment and disengagement. Thailand has set itself the ambitious goal in target regions, starting with the Udon Thani province, of reducing the category of young people in the 15 to 24 age group not in employment, education or training (NEETs) from 15 to 5 per cent within 5 years. 

Mr. Boonchob Suthamanuswong, the Permanent Secretary of Thailand’s Ministry of Labour who led the Thai delegation during the visit said: “The Ministry of Labour acknowledges the significance of youth development as a crucial component of human capital. Consequently, we have established a target in our operational plan to decrease the number of youth classified as NEETs, while simultaneously equipping them with the necessary skills to become a high-quality workforce. This is vital for propelling Thailand's future economic growth and development.” 

Drawing upon her experience as member of the Finnish government, which played a crucial role in introducing the youth guarantee initiative, ETF's Director Pilvi Torsti emphasized the significant impact it had on promoting wider adoption throughout the European Union.

Supporting youth into employment, education or training requires cross-ministerial effort bridging education, employment, enterprise, municipalities, and good working relations with the third sector of non-governmental organisations and civil society more broadly”.

“We know that the EU is doing a lot and want to learn from the experience in EU member states, specifically Italy on this occasion and also learn from the ETF’s experience working with countries in the EU’s neighbouring regions,” said Dr. Suwankitti. "The key to successful policies is in the implementation,” he added.

Policy approaches, innovative programmes and ingredients for enabling successful transition from school to work featured strongly in the peer learning agenda with attention on the role of individual stakeholders, work-based learning, performance monitoring and evaluation systems, and the management of datasets and evidence. 

“While reaching stakeholders may not be difficult, the real challenge lies in transforming their mindsets to foster cohesive collaboration,” said Dr. Suwankitti.

Ilaria Favero, Chief of Adolescent Development and Participation at UNICEF Thailand who accompanied the delegation to Italy, reinforced UNICEF's dedication to collaborating closely with the Royal Thai Government and partners such as ETF in tackling NEET challenges. 

"The exchange of good practices between the European Union, Italian authorities, and the Royal Thai government aligns with UNICEF's greater objectives of promoting human capital development and integrated services for NEETs. By working together, we can forge sustainable solutions that empower vulnerable youth, fostering their potential and providing them with meaningful engagement and opportunities for a brighter future." she said.

Participants to the peer learning visit include representatives of the Thailand’s Ministry of Labour and the National Economic and Social Development Council, President of Udon Thani Rajabhat University, as well as the representatives of UNICEF Thailand office. The visit is facilitated by the European Training Foundation in collaboration with the representatives of the Piedmont and Veneto authorities, education sector, business sector, research and non-governmental organizations. 


The Government of Thailand and the UNICEF country office, in collaboration with the European Training Foundation, initiated a study on young people not in employment, education and training and value of integrated services to support labour market integration, skills development and social inclusion of young people (In-depth research on youth not in employment, education or training (NEET) in Thailand | UNICEF Thailand).
The research revealed key contributing factors to the NEET phenomenon in Thailand, identified gaps in current policies and services and provided recommendations for targeted interventions. It also triggered a series of consultations about the next policy actions and capacity building needs at all levels to address the education, employment and social support needs of young people. The European experience of Youth Guarantee schemes and other types of policy and programmes supporting school to work transitions proved to be relevant to Thailand’s context. 

Media contacts

Rudina Vojvoda
Chief of Communication
UNICEF Thailand Country Office
Nattha Keenapan
Communication Officer
UNICEF Thailand Country Office


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