The State of Economic Mobility for Youth

What do we envision when we think about the future? Disruptive new technologies such as generative AI? Sustainable living? Or maybe something more personal, like a family, a house, or a dream career? In any case, hope for the future is what allows us to work toward dreams, muddle through difficulties in the present, and maintain resilience in the face of adversity.

Unfortunately, these crucial hopes for the future can sometimes be dampened by the circumstances we face. A 2022 Gallup World Poll asked youth aged 15 to 24 to rate their lives as they imagined they’d be in five years. The results showed that “young people’s ratings of where they see their lives in the near future differ depending on their country’s income level,” and that “young people living in low-income economies rate their lives in five years the worst of any of the income groups, with life ratings that are more than a full point lower than young people in high- and upper-middle-income economies.”

Economic concerns can weigh heavily on youth, preventing them from envisioning a much brighter future for themselves. So, what can be done to counter this way of thinking and offer young people more hope for their economic futures? The answer lies in improved economic mobility.

In this article, we’ll take a look at economic mobility for youth, and how a lack of mobility can negatively impact their lives. Then, we’ll show you how we at Generation are working to improve economic mobility around the world — and what you can do to support our important work.

A Global Conundrum: Youth and Economic Mobility

The term “economic mobility” encapsulates the ability of an individual or family to change ( positively or negatively) their economic status, often measured through changes in income. For youth, this mobility is not merely a financial trajectory, but a life journey that encompasses things like education, employment, and empowerment.

In low- and middle-income countries, youth often grapple with systemic issues such as limited access to quality education and vocational training, which can make it difficult to enter a competitive job market. In high-income countries, despite having structured educational frameworks, young individuals often encounter saturated job markets, skyrocketing living costs, and the paradox of being overqualified yet under-experienced.

Challenges for Youth Economic Mobility Around the World

  • Educational accessibility: In many regions, disparities in access to quality education hinder young individuals from acquiring essential skills and knowledge, therefore limiting their prospects in the job market and perpetuating cycles of poverty and inequality. Without equitable educational opportunities, a significant portion of the global youth population is left ill-equipped to navigate the complexities of modern economies, stifling their potential for upward economic mobility.
  • Employment challenges: Employment challenges pose significant barriers to economic mobility for youth globally. In numerous countries, young individuals face a saturated job market, where opportunities are scarce and competition is fierce. Additionally, a lack of opportunities for youth to gain hands-on experience can hinder their transition into the workforce. These obstacles not only stymie individual growth but also have broader implications for national economies and societal progress.
  • Technological disparities: As the world becomes increasingly interconnected and reliant on technology, those without access to digital resources or the skills to navigate them are left at a distinct disadvantage. This technological disparity means many young individuals miss out on opportunities in the burgeoning digital economy, from online education to remote work prospects. In this way, the digital divide exacerbates existing inequalities, preventing a vast segment of the youth population from fully participating in and benefiting from modern economic advancements.

The Ripple Effects of Stifled Mobility

The impacts of hindered economic mobility are far-reaching, affecting various facets of society and the global economy. From the stagnation of socioeconomic development in communities to the exacerbation of inequality on a global scale, decreased youth economic mobility is felt across borders and industries. These negative impacts include:

  • Inequality amplification: The wealth gap widens as affluent families can invest more in their children’s education and career, perpetuating a cycle of privilege.
  • Stunted economic growth: The underutilization of the youth demographic, especially in countries with a significant young population, curtails national economic growth and innovation.
  • Dissatisfaction and unrest: Frustration and disillusionment among the youth can lead to negative mental health outcomes and decreased overall well-being. At scale, these feelings can even culminate in social unrest.

Generation: Paving Pathways for Youth Economic Mobility

In the midst of these challenges, we at Generation are working hard to be a catalyst for change. We empower youth to build thriving, sustainable careers and provide employers with the highly-skilled, motivated talent they need — all through the power of our employment program methodology. Our free employment programs offer hands-on work experience in various fields, online and offline, in 17 countries around the world. 

Through our programs, adults of all ages — whether unemployed, underemployed, or needing to learn new skills — can access training, support, and a path to meaningful employment. Developing skills through employment programs like ours helps learners become more competitive in the job market and increase their earning potential. We even connect our graduates with employers who are hiring for the exact roles they’ve been trained to do. Learn more about employment program offerings near you!

By bridging the gap between aptitude and opportunity, Generation is not merely facilitating economic mobility but is also crafting narratives of hope, resilience, and empowerment across the globe.

The journey towards improved youth economic mobility is a collective one, relying on efforts from individuals, communities, and organizations alike. By supporting our work at Generation, you can help youth around the world access the opportunities, skills, and platforms they need to find meaningful employment — and to begin envisioning their future in a hopeful, positive light.

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At Generation, our mission is to train, support, and place people into otherwise inaccessible career opportunities that can change their lives. Explore our employment programs to see how we can help you, or donate today to help us create career opportunities for our learners!