Executive summary

Today’s youth population (aged 15-24) of 1.2 billion people represents the largest cohort ever to enter the transition to adulthood. The majority of these young people, 88%, live in developing countries, and the numbers will practically double in the least developed countries. These young people are the world’s next generation and a unique asset. If properly nurtured, they can act as engines for economic and social progress. However, if policies and programmes fail to reach young people, particularly disadvantaged youth, and fail to give them a voice in decision-making processes, the youth bulge may well apply a brake to economic and social development, leading to increasing poverty, illegal migration, failed citizenship, or worse, social unrest.

In this context, the political will has grown among many national governments to develop comprehensive policy frameworks that better respond to young peoples’ needs and aspirations. Efforts to support more effective policies for young people are reflected in the fact that, today, nearly two out of three countries in the world have a national youth policy. Notwithstanding these advances, a number of challenges remain that undermine both the efficiency and the inclusiveness of youth policies, from fragmented responsibilities and weak implementation ministries to the lack of reliable knowledge and data, insufficient analytical and financial resources, difficulty in voicing the needs of disadvantaged groups or the absence of appropriate monitoring and evaluation systems.

The Development Centre of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), with co-financing from the European Union (EU) is implementing a three-year project on Youth Inclusion (2014-2017). The project supported governments of ten1 developing countries to improve policies and programmes for youth. A multi-sectoral approach was used to assess the situation of youth, to identify the most vulnerable ones and to analyse what determines youth vulnerabilities and successful transitions. The analyses were carried out in the participating countries using a common analytical framework, adapting the OECD Well-being framework. Five key dimensions of well-being were selected to measure the situation of youth: education, skills and employment, health, civic participation and empowerment, and some aspects of subjective well-being.

The present toolkit includes step-by-step modules to carry out a youth well-being diagnosis and includes practical examples of common youth policies and programmes in the areas of employment, education and skills, health and civic participation. The toolkit builds on the important work of the OECD and its development partners to date. While the methodologies presented in the toolkit are applicable in all countries, many examples focus on developing countries, where the majority of disadvantaged youth live.

The toolkit is divided into two parts: Part I presents the conceptual framework that underlines the toolkit and describes the different challenges and needs of youth as they go through transitions in life. A life cycle approach recognises that adverse and unequal youth outcomes are often attributable to circumstances at birth and during early childhood. The framework also emphasises the multi-dimensionality of youth well-being and the causal linkages between the different dimensions. An inventory of common youth policies and programmes, including concrete international examples, follows. Part I is primarily intended for decision makers as a briefing note on youth-related issues, concepts and policy benchmarks.

Part II, which is intended for technical experts and policy analysts, provides a step-by-step methodological guide to carry out in-depth analyses on the situation of youth and to profile vulnerable youth using empirical evidence. It includes six modules that can be used at different phases in the policy-making cycle:

  • Module 1 proposes a series of indicators, adapted from the OECD Well-being framework, to measure deficits in selected well-being dimensions and introduces a new indicator to estimate the extent of youth multi-dimensional deprivation (Y-MDI).

  • Module 2 explains how to establish a profile of disadvantaged youth by identifying the determinants of poor well-being outcomes.

  • Module 3 presents tools to assess the policy and institutional environment, drawing specific attention to the interplay between policies, institutions, social norms and youth well-being.

  • Module 4 presents tools to evaluate the impact and cost-effectiveness of youth interventions and programmes.

  • Module 5 introduces ways to calculate the costs of inaction and youth exclusion.

  • Module 6 presents approaches to support the voices of young people in national decision-making processes.

This toolkit is intended to help governments better monitor and evaluate youth-specific programmes and improve policies dedicated to youth using evidence. Country reviews carried out by the project using this toolkit identifies gaps in youth well-being that will help advocate for more investment in youth projects and programmes. A common approach to youth diagnosis will provide comparable data, allowing countries to share good practices and exchange information on policies that work or not. Evidence-based analysis is necessary to improve youth policy making in both developing and advanced economies.

This toolkit is not intended to be prescriptive, nor does it attempt to provide all answers. Feedback on the content and presentation of the methodology will be used to guide future revisions, with the understanding that policy reform programmes, however well-designed, are unlikely to be sustainable or even implemented without full country ownership supported by a large degree of national consensus.


← 1. Cambodia, Côte d’Ivoire, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Jordan, Malawi, Moldova, Peru, Togo and Viet Nam.