Promoting Youth Cooperatives in Rural Area

Oct 13, 2021  •  7 min read

The global youth unemployment rate stands at an estimated 13.2 per cent in 2017, up from 12.9 per cent in 2012 and a notable increase from 12.5 per cent in 2007. Reaching 13.2 per cent 70.9 million young unemployed is well below the crisis peak of 76.7 million in 2009 (ILO, 2017). Unemployment is more widespread and less affordable among young people living in urban areas, where most young workers have to accept any job in order to survive. The EU-28 unemployment rate in rural areas was 9.1 % in 2015 (Eurostat) and about one-third of all youth aged 15 to 24 – suffer from a deficit of decent work opportunities. The vast majority of jobs available to youth are low paid, insecure, and with few benefits or prospects for advancement.

Lack of investments often results in lower living standards and depopulation of rural areas. The scarce availability of decent work and decent living opportunities and the slight hope of a better future are the main factors pushing youth to migrate from rural to urban areas or abroad. Youth migration to urban areas leads to unemployment, poverty and alienation and, in some cases, to anti-social behaviours or exploitation. Furthermore, farm populations are ageing in many developing countries as rural youth migrate to urban areas in search of work. Without increased involvement of youth in agriculture, long-term shortages in skilled agricultural labour will inevitably occur. Failure to reverse this trend is likely to negatively affect agricultural productivity, output and food supply, which in turn may undermine household and national food security.

Education and training are not always accessible in rural areas. It is often of poor quality and has little relevance to the requirements of the labour market and the needs of rural youth. The provision of training for employment is also biased toward urban employment. In rural communities, training opportunities to improve skills, productivity and livelihoods in agriculture are very few, or they focus on programs that do not prepare youth for productive work in agriculture. Technology transfer and advisory services through group-based learning programs, such as those of the extension service, are usually not targeted at young people.

Inadequate quality and relevance of education and training can strongly affect the length and quality of school-to-work transition of young people. The lack of alignment between the education system and the needs of employers generate a mismatch between the supply and demand of labour. Consequently, young people struggle to find a job that suits their qualifications, and employers fail to recruit graduates with the right skills set.

Cooperative is a powerful way of getting young people involved in business, increasing the attractiveness of rural areas and fostering empowerment of youth. The cooperative model of enterprise contributes to youth employment not only by providing salaried employment but also by facilitating job creation through self-employment. However, in most countries, cooperatives are not included in school curricula, and young people do not have the opportunity to learn about the form of the enterprise during their studies. Existing mainstream entrepreneurship education and business support services also neglect the cooperative model. Even when the cooperative form of business is introduced to potential members, promoters often underestimate the need for capacity building, business management skills, and specific training in cooperative governance. Thus, there is a need for more projects that aim to enhance decent youth employment opportunities for youth by promoting cooperative business in rural areas.