Giving Indonesia’s new generation the skills and self-confidence to find decent work

Indonesia’s new generation of young people are creative, connected, concerned and keen to succeed. But today, far too many can’t find decent jobs.

Feature | 15 May 2012
Indonesia’s new generation of young people are creative, connected, concerned and keen to succeed. But today, far too many can’t find decent jobs. More than 6 out of 10 young workers are trapped in low–skill, low– productivity occupations in the informal economy. But change is possible, as this report by journalist Eric May from Indonesia shows, where creating jobs for youth has become a top priority.

Wardah is a university student enrolled in a business skills training course called “Start Your Business”, part of the ILO EAST project in South Sulawesi, an area with one of the highest youth unemployment rates in Indonesia.

After the training, Wardah invested money she had saved to start up her own cell phone service business at a local market. She made back her investment after two months, and business is so good Wardah is planning a move to a bigger shop.

Wardah is one of tens of thousands of youth that benefited from the activities of the ILO and its partners in the Indonesian Government as well as the country’s employers’ associations and trade unions. Along with the support of international donors, they have all made a significant contribution to improving Indonesia’s youth employment situation.

Ten years ago the ILO helped focus attention on Indonesia’s youth employment problem and supported the policy-makers to turn priorities into action. In 2002, Indonesia became one of the first countries to respond to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals on youth employment, becoming a lead country in the UN’s Youth Employment Network.

The Indonesian Government together with employers’ organizations and trade unions, along with the support of the ILO and the Dutch Government, have made a significant contribution to improving Indonesia’s youth employment situation.

Making youth employment a national priority

In 2004, the “Indonesia Youth Employment Action Plan” was developed to deal with the youth employment challenge. Today, youth employment is a priority of the National Development Plan that is being implemented by a designated group of young professionals at the Ministry of Planning who are committed to fostering coordination and joint action among various partners.

At the national level, the “Job Opportunities for Youth” programme strengthened the capacity of the Government to formulate and implement policies and programmes for youth employment. For instance, employment offices were established to give young jobseekers practical information on careers and job-search skills. Job fairs were organized to help employers meet with young jobseekers.

In the rural provinces of East Java, where there are many more jobseekers than available jobs, and very few entrepreneurs, the ILO and its partners decided that training young people in self-employment skills could be a viable approach.

The idea was endorsed by the provincial Governor and every school district was instructed to implement it. More than 2,000 teachers and facilitators were trained in how to teach business start-up and entrepreneurial skills in vocational schools and training providers. Teachers not only became better entrepreneurship teachers, but better teachers in general thanks to their newly acquired skills.

The ILO Education and Skills Training for Youth Employment Programme (EAST) focused on improving the school-to-work transition in six provinces by targeting specific groups of disadvantaged youth and providing them with a package of education and employment services, spanning “second chance” programmes for out-of-school youth to career guidance, skills and entrepreneurial training and other services.

For instance, more than 4,000 out-of-school children at risk of child labour were enrolled in school or informal education; more than 76,000 students benefited from regular counselling sessions. About 13,000 young people, both in and out of school, were trained in entrepreneurship and vocational skills, using “Start and Improve Your Business” and “Know About Business”. More than 40 per cent of them started micro-businesses within six months from the completion of the courses.

Pioneering youth employment initiatives

Several youth employment initiatives were developed and piloted in Indonesia. For instance, the ILO led the development of an integrated approach that includes the identification of skills in demand followed by the implementation of competency-based training programmes that include skills assessment and certification as well as support to youth in their job search and placement.

Following the success of the pilot initiative, this approach has been adopted by the Ministry of Education and applied at the national level. Similarly, the training module on rights at work for young people was revised by Indonesian trade unions to respond to the realities of the country. The association of young entrepreneurs looked into the business climate to support young people who were willing to set up their own business.

“The broad-based partnerships for youth employment established in Indonesia have demonstrated that joint action in tackling the youth employment challenge can make a greater impact. These include collaboration among schools and training providers, government ministries, the social partners and youth organizations at both national and local levels. Similarly, cooperation among various international organizations can improve policy coherence and coordination on youth employment in a country,” concludes Gianni Rosas, Coordinator of the ILO Youth Employment Programme (YEP).