“Particular attention needs to be given to micro-, small and medium-sized sustainable enterprise development, promotion of cooperatives, youth employability and employment, and entrepreneurship (including in-school curricula), women’s empowerment and entrepreneurship, and entrepreneurship programmes for disadvantaged groups”.

Resolution concerning sustainable enterprises, International Labour Conference, 2007


Starting a business or engaging in self-employment is increasingly seen as part of a strategy to address the youth employment challenge. However, on average young people find it more difficult than adults to engage in business because they have less capital in the form of skills, knowledge and experience, collaterals and less access to business network. Ideally, entrepreneurship development initiatives for young people should span a comprehensive set of measures that make it easier for young people to start and run their own business (e.g. entrepreneurship education and training, enabling administrative and regulatory framework, business assistance and support, access to finance).

Entrepreneurship education and training programmes are an important component of any strategy to promote entrepreneurial activity among young people. They can constitute a valuable means for shaping young people’s attitudes and competencies to become self-employed. Where schools do not promote entrepreneurship as an option for young people, employers can lobby for its incorporation into the curriculum. They can also initiate activities such as helping develop enterprise curricula and teaching material, sharing experience with potential young entrepreneurs and arranging for youth groups to visit their enterprises.

Networks for young entrepreneurs help them set up their businesses and find business partners. In peer groups, information about all aspects of business life can be exchanged. Furthermore, networks can help access conventional finance services by advising on business plans, offering ongoing support and providing mentoring services and linking young entrepreneurs to financial institutions. Identifying suitable mentors within a network and matching them with young people can be a further service of a network. Further activities by entrepreneur networks include publishing guides, manuals or help-sheets explaining the essentials to young entrepreneurs and, importantly, participation in policy-making or lobby government on the needs of emerging business people.

Youth business start-up programmes that reward innovation in young companies can be an effective way to raise enterprise awareness, while promoting a positive image of sponsoring companies. By sitting on judging panels with other partners, employers can also establish good working relationships with different stakeholders and get in touch with new emerging companies.

Promoting youth entrepreneurship and enterprise creation is a key policy work area for the ILO.  The ILO's Know about Business (KAB) and the Start and Improve Your Business (SIYB) are two major ILO programmes to promote youth entrepreneurship. The KAB aims at promoting awareness among young people of the opportunities and challenges of entrepreneurship and self-employment. The SIYB programme is a management-training programme with a focus on starting and improving small businesses as a strategy for creating more and better employment in developing economies and economies in transition.


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