Getting ahead and getting by: Exploring outcomes of youth livelihoods programs
This report (PDF) by the Mastercard Foundation examines factors that influence young people’s earning opportunities and well-being. The research is based on the experiences of 130 young people participating in two programs supported by Learn, Earn and Save (LES), a Mastercard Foundation initiative that was established to test models for market-level training and opportunities. With few demographic factors, and no apparent programmatic or employment experiences that differentiated youth, two main pathways were identified: One group of youth — those categorized as ‘getting ahead’ — made steady progress in their employment or self-employment and in attaining other goals. A second group of youth — those categorized as ‘getting by’ — struggled to leverage work or learning opportunities to improve their (or their families’) well-being or achieve other goals or aspirations. These two distinct pathways suggest key mediating factors are at play in the lives of youth, including employment sector, certification, livelihood strategies, financial inclusion and social networks. Gender was the most consistent and striking factor that influenced youth’s trajectories. Male youth were more likely to ‘get ahead’, while female youth were more likely to ‘get by’. Another key finding: Family, community, and program-based networks played a complicated role in youth’s livelihoods. Social networks not only offered supports, financial and otherwise, but in turn became an avenue for youth to demonstrate their changing status within their family or community as they attempted to support others within their networks. A significantly higher proportion of youth who were ‘getting ahead’ also reported having agricultural enterprises over five years, reinforcing the observation that pursuing multiple livelihoods was necessary for most youth to meet their present needs and future economic goals. The report indicates that a consistent and effective approach to evaluating youth livelihoods programs is lacking, and much of the research focuses on the gaps and weaknesses in existing studies. Results highlight the merits of an integrated approach to planning and implementation that will support youth in their transition to work. An important recommendation of the report is when implementing and evaluating holistic youth livelihoods programs, development practitioners and evaluators should be attuned not only to varied youth livelihoods trajectories, but also to the factors that influence youth’s earning, opportunities and well-being.