Young Women's Employment

For most of the developing world, growing levels of female school attendance, combined with low labor force participation, suggest that young women have a more difficult transition from school to work than young men. In 2011, between 47 percent and 72 percent of young women aged 15 to 24 in low-income developing countries were neither at school nor at work, and were recorded as “idle” in household surveys.

These initial disadvantages call for greater policy and program efforts focused on young women’s transition into jobs to equalize opportunities with young men.

Summary of Lessons

For young women, demand-oriented skills training, on-the-job training, vouchers and/or wage subsidies effectively increase their employability and earnings.

Cash grants or incentives to young women for education increase their school attendance and may improve their educational outcomes; while large cash grants with no conditions may help increase young women’s employment and income and have sizeable social benefits.

A cash transfer experiment in low-income Malawi found significant impacts on school test scores, as well as enrollment and attendance, when the transfer of about $5 monthly was conditional on the young women, aged 13 to 22, attending school.

Livelihood programs that combine reproductive health with income generation and asset building show promising results for young women in low-income settings and in socially conservative environments, but need to be further evaluated before they can be delivered at scale.

An adolescent program in Uganda finds a 35 percent increase in the likelihood of young women being engaged in income generation and a 30 percent reduction in pregnancy rates, underscoring the strong connection that appears to exist between economic and health indicators for young women.

Research Commissions