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German development policy

Combating youth unemployment and child labour


Jean d’Amour Ntirushwamaboko, a student at the ETEKA vocational school in Kabgayi, Rwanda

Many children and young people in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries are excluded from formal education or quit school early. Although others finish primary and secondary school, they have no access to vocational training or tertiary education and are thus not adequately prepared for the demands of the labour market. As a result, many young people are unable to find work in the formal sector – and the economies of these coun­tries lack trained and qualified workers.

Unemployment and underemployment are one of the biggest problems in the coun­tries with which Germany cooperates. Young people, above all girls, are par­tic­u­lar­ly hard hit by these problems: the In­ter­national Labour Or­ga­ni­za­tion (ILO) has calculated that in 2013 around 73 million young people bet­ween the ages of 15 and 24 were unemployed worldwide. This means that two out of every five unemployed people are younger than 24 years of age.

The high level of youth unemployment not only causes huge economic damage in the coun­try concerned, the social costs are also enormous: young people who cannot find work have no prospects for the future. They are frus­trat­ed and feel that they are useless and excluded from society. There is con­si­der­able potential for conflict and violence in this situ­a­tion.

Over the next few years the number of young people on the labour market will increase dramatically. Providing them with decent work and a living wage, so that their futures are not without prospects, is an im­por­tant contribution towards securing peaceful co-existence in the world.

The integrated approach to boosting youth employment

Germany applies an integrated approach in its efforts to boost youth employ­ment. This approach essentially comprises three dimensions that are mutually dependent and mutually complementary:

  • Promoting the private sector and creating productive decent jobs, including by means of efforts aimed at improving the legal enabling en­vi­ron­ment and access to finance for businesses, building competitive economic structures, and advising governments on economic policy topics such as industrial and competition policy.
  • Increasing the employability of young people looking for work by means of improved vocational training and qualifications – especially for dis­ad­van­taged young people.
  • Improving the coordination of supply and demand on the labour market by means of effective careers advice and guidance, job finding services and labour market information.

The de­vel­op­ment co­op­er­a­tion activities carried out by Germany are con­ceived in such a way as to ensure that human rights are observed and ensured. These rights include decent working conditions and a ban on child labour.

These efforts are complemented by the activities carried out by the BMZ in connection with social protection. For example, the ministry supports the de­vel­op­ment of micro­insurance schemes for young people in the informal sector, and basic protection models specially for children and young people.


Combating child labour

A young quarry worker near Kent, Freetown, Sierra Leone

According to the latest estimates from the ILO, around 168 million children between the ages of five and 17 are still obliged to work, around 85 million of them under exploitative conditions that are often harmful to their health and dangerous. Only about one fifth of working children receive payment; the majority of child labour takes place in family-run businesses.

Germany is a key player in the efforts to fight exploitative and dangerous forms of child labour. The German gov­ern­ment contributes about one million euros a year to support the In­ter­national Programme on the Eli­mi­na­tion of Child Labour (IPEC), which the In­ter­national Labour Or­ga­ni­za­tion has been running since 1992.

Together with the private sector, the BMZ is also sup­port­ing the ela­bo­ra­tion of voluntary codes of conduct, for example in the coffee, cocoa and textiles sectors. The com­mit­ments under­taken by private sector companies also include a voluntary ban on ex­ploi­ta­tive child labour.


Protection against sexual exploitation

Another im­por­tant issue that Germany is seeking to address through de­vel­op­ment co­op­er­a­tion activities is the commercial exploitation of children for sex. Germany is doing all it can to protect children against the inhuman machi­na­tions of child traffickers and organised rings of pimps.

The sexual exploitation of children is only possible because the demand is there. The Federal Republic of Germany and other coun­tries have passed extra-territorial laws. This means that per­pe­tra­tors can also be pro­se­cu­ted after they have returned home. Many coun­tries have raised the age of con­sent to 18. Clients are thus com­mit­ting an offence when they have sex with children. The BMZ is working with the tourism industry and the non-gov­ern­ment­al or­ga­ni­sa­tion The Code to have a global code on combating the sexual abuse of children adopted.


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