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Decent Work and Youth Livelihoods Programme

Decent Work and Youth Livelihoods Programme


Characteristics, expectations and aspirations for work amongst marginalised young people in low-and middle-income countries (October 2020-)

Graduate studentship partnering with the International Labour Organisation

The lack of decent and living wage employment available to young people in lower-income countries poses a major global challenge, due to poverty, frustrated aspirations, and the waste of potential for personal and societal development. Not finding quality work can have scarring effects throughout a young person's life such as consistently low earnings. The need to address this challenge is enshrined in Sustainable Development Goal 8: decent work for all.

Amongst young people, NEETs (those Not in Education, Employment or Training) are particularly hard to reach and are therefore poorly understood. Young NEETs are a highly heterogeneous group, in which young women are over-represented. Many young women face gender-based discrimination and managedomestic responsibilities, which block them from paid employment.

The research involves two phases. (1) detailed analysis of data from the Labour Force Survey and ILO surveys on Youth Aspirations and the Future of Work. (2) Qualitative, interview-based case study research, to understand youth perspectives, experiences and aspirations. The findings will contribute to the formulation of international policy to promote the employment prospects of marginalised young people. The exact programme of research will develop according to the interests and skills of the student.

This work is funded by the University of Cambridge ESRC Doctoral Training Partnership [DTP] and the International Labour Organization (ILO). The studentship is held by Kate Brockie. The work is supervised by Dr. Anna Barford and Professor Bhaskar Vira (at the University of Cambridge), and Professor Niall O'Higgins (ILO).

Peak Youth, Climate Change and the Role of Young People in Seizing their Future (March 2020-)

British Academy Youth Futures project investigating how climate change in Uganda is affecting young lives and youth livelihoods

With a median age of 15.8, Uganda is demographically the third youngest country in the world. Yet the youth labour under-utilisation rate of 67.9% makes it unlikely that these young people will find decent jobs. Climate change drives livelihoods' precarity with increased flooding and droughts and disrupted seasonality. As agriculture becomes less reliable, rural-urban migration intensifies. Young people have the energy and enthusiasm to develop solutions. Starting from youth experience and agency, this research project investigates how climate change in Uganda is affecting young lives and youth livelihoods in the regions of Karamoja and Jinja. It seeks to: (i) document the diverse lives and livelihood strategies of young people in rural and urban settings; (ii) find out how climate change impacts upon young people's lives and livelihoods; and (iii) identify youth solutions to the challenges they face.

This research is funded by a British Academy Youth Futures grant. The research team are: Dr. Anna Barford, University of Cambridge; Dr Anthony Mugeere, Makerere University, Uganda; Ms Rachel Proefke, Restless Development; Dame Barbara Stocking, University of Cambridge; Dr Brendan Burchell, University of Cambridge; and Dr Andrew Ellias State, Makerere University, Uganda. The project P.I. is Dr. Anna Barford.

Gender, class, and labour in the new economy of urban India (ongoing)

Joyce Lambert Research Fellowship at Newnham College, Cambridge

Following the economic restructuring of the 1990s which opened up the Indian economy to global trade, the country has experienced significant socio-economic change. The terms 'post-liberalisation' and 'post-1990' are now commonly used as shorthand to refer to the new India that has rejected state-led development in favour of market efficiency, heralding India at the global stage. These changes are credited with the growth of a New Middle Class, defined through new aspirations, attitudes, and consumption practices, particularly among the youth. However, the benefits of the new economy are unequally distributed, with serious concerns about unemployment and underemployment among a large proportion of the youth population. Further, contrary to expectations, the female labour force participation rate is not only low but has also been declining in recent years. Nevertheless, there are emerging pockets of women's employment, especially in the rapidly expanding hospitality and retail services in urban areas, which are symbolically and materially implicated in wider changes in gender and class relations in India.

In this context, my research engages with the experiences of young lower middle class women seeking employment in the service economy of urban India, across workplaces such as cafes, malls, call centres, and offices. Using ethnographic methods, I develop insights into the way young people make meaning in and of their lives vis-a-vis work. In one part, my research engages with emerging practices of work, especially among the lower middle classes who are in-between the poor and the securely middle class, that do not fit into neat categories of regular/irregular work, paid/unpaid work, casual/self-employed. In another part, it intervenes in scholarship on employment/unemployment which is overdetermined by young men's experiences. By seeking young women's narratives about their lives, my research explores the dynamic conflict between the flexibility of the job market and the rigidity of gender norms, drawing attention to their working lives rather than work in isolation.

This project is led by Dr. Asiya Islam, Joyce Lambert Research Fellow at Newnham College, University of Cambridge.

Youth employment in times of COVID (January-October 2021)

An ILO global review of COVID-19 policy responses to tackle (un)employment and disadvantage among young people.

This review provides a snapshot account of the types of government response to the social and economic impacts of the pandemic, policy and evidence gaps, and future challenges. Key gaps in the response have also been detailed, such as a limited policy focus on gendered dimensions of the pandemic impact. The specific challenges facing young people have also often been overlooked in the general social and economic response policies.

In framing emergency policies, the specific needs of particular groups, such as young people or sub-groups of young people, have at times "fallen through the cracks". In addition, given the ongoing and dynamic nature of the crisis, many response policies are yet to fully embed themselves or be evaluated. It is therefore difficult to accurately assess their impact and effectiveness, or determine what has and has not worked. However, what is clear is that without these policies and government intervention the situation of young people would have been far worse in terms of the social and economic impacts.

Youth in a Time of Crisis: Livelihood Diaries from Nepal and Indonesia During COVID-19 (October 2020-December 2021)

Diary research project investigating how COVID-19 affected young people's lives and livelihoods during 2021.

The Asian Development Bank, Cambridge University Institute for Sustainability Leadership and Restless Development teamed up to undertake innovative research on the impacts of COVID-19 on young people's livelihoods. The pilot study explored how some of the most vulnerable groups of young people experienced and responded to the COVID-19 pandemic in Nepal and Indonesia. Through diaries collected weekly over four months, this youth-led project generated new insights and recommendations that can inform future research and practice.

Team members involved: Grace Mueller and Dr. Anna Barford.