Whats at stake?

The beginning of your career is always unique. Although it is likely that you will have many jobs during your life, the first few years are when you gain responsibility and independence.

You also begin to figure out what matters most to you in your career and find the type of job that suits you best.

But it isn’t always simple to start out or to find a good job. Some employers expect previous experience. Others offer young people unpaid internships or temporary jobs as a “way in” to a company, an option that is not financially possible for many.

What makes a good job?

A good job helps people develop skills, fulfil their ambitions and contribute to society. It is essential for well-being.

Where you live also matters. Not all cities and regions offer the same opportunities to learn and work, or to access public transport.

Young people represent more than half of people moving within OECD countries, almost exclusively to cities and their surrounding areas, to continue education and find jobs.

Cities and their surrounding regions generally have stronger economic growth Where are young people moving?
OECD expert Jonathan Barr responds to young people’s concerns about jobs and learning in rural places.

It is also important to understand how bias against LGBTI+ individuals and against racial and ethnic minorities can negatively affect their employment opportunities and workplace experiences – and what countries and employers are doing to prevent this. 

Further reading: 
LGBTI+ equality in the workplace: A global perspective (article)
Making diversity work for all (report)

Why it matters to my generation

Young people today are highly educated, creative and ambitious.

Collectively, you have more years of school than your parents and grandparents. You are likely to live longer, healthier lives. You have skills and ideas that can help solve society’s pressing challenges.


You are just as likely as older adults to start your own businesses. You also appreciate the opportunities new technologies can bring: the automation of repetitive tasks, the chance to work remotely from anywhere in the world and a better work-life balance.

But many young people also feel they lack the knowledge and skills to do so. And more support is needed to help young entrepreneurs succeed.

Most young entrepreneurs give up because their business wasn't profitable

But the digital revolution has also brought a digital divide, one that young people will need to overcome to find that good first job.

Unfortunately, not everyone has access to the same digital resources. You may lack a computer or fast, stable Internet connection; you may not have had adequate IT training or technology classes at school. And remote work, touted as the “new normal” in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, isn’t in fact a realistic option for many workers yet.

The pandemic hasn’t just highlighted the digital divide; it has set off a profound economic and social crisis, one that is deeply affecting young people.

Completing your vocational training may be difficult due to lockdowns, social distancing and travel restrictions.

You are more likely to be employed in sectors hit hard by the crisis and in jobs that are low paid, temporary or gig work. You are also more at risk of losing your job or falling into poverty. And you may find it harder to get an apprenticeship, especially in the hospitality, tourism, aviation and leisure sectors, where demand for apprentices is reaching historical lows.

What’s more, previous crises have shown long-lasting effects on people’s well-being, skills and life-long earnings. In many countries, it took nearly 10 years after the 2008 financial crash for youth employment to return to approximately pre-crisis levels.

In more than half of OECD countries, young people trust governments less now than they did before the 2007-2008 financial crisis. The confidence of young people in public institutions is wavering, as is their feeling of having political influence and being represented in decision making.

What about the future?

We also know that the pandemic has negatively affected young people’s mental health. The data show that young people’s anxiety and depression levels are higher, on average, than those of the general population.  

Young people report higher levels of symptoms of anxiety and depression than adults

Lots of countries have put in place additional mental health initiatives for young people, and fortunately this seems to be helping. Levels of anxiety and depression have been falling in recent months since their peak during the pandemic. 

What can countries do?

Finding that good first job may seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be, with the right support.

Governments need to put in place policies that support young people with tools for a better start.

We need to make sure young adults are not trapped in unemployment or in low-quality jobs, making it hard for young people to find housing, build up savings or start a family. The need for the right policies is more important than ever in the wake of COVID-19.

We need governments to:
Invest in vocational training and lifelong learning programmes, so that young people can get the skills they need for the jobs of today – and tomorrow.
Ensure that social benefits, strengthened during the first wave of the COVID crisis, continue to be available to vulnerable young people, so that they have adequate shelter, food and access to healthcare, whether they are studying, working or are seeking a job.
The ideas of more young people need to be added to those of governments, businesses and unions in order to better understand and plan for the future of work.
To help countries do this effectively, the OECD is renewing its Youth Action Plan.

What do you think the Action Plan should do?

What actions do you want governments to take to help you and other young people starting out in the world of work?

We want to hear your views

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Whats at stake?
Why it matters to my generation
What can countries do?