The role of youth in sustainable development: perspectives from South Asia

This research paper, commissioned as part of the series ‘Starting Strong: the first 1000 days of the SDGs’, identifies key actions toward addressing the unfinished business of the MDGs and how to reach those who are furthest behind in relation to the new SDGs. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) address the importance of developing the skills of the labour force and the required reform of labour markets for poverty reduction. SDG 8 aims to ‘promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all’. The corresponding targets aim to achieve and sustain a decent per capita economic growth and productivity in developing economies. In order to achieve this, market and competition reforms will be required to unlock creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship. Goal 8’s focus is also on reducing youth unemployment. This is particularly important in South Asia, where one-fifth of the population are 15- to 24-year-olds; young adults continue to account for half of the unemployed; and young people are six times more likely than older workers to be jobless. Among young people, women in particular are being left behind due to: constraints on their geographic and occupational mobility, access to education and training, and discriminatory cultural norms.