Meaningful youth engagement

Work Wise Youth: ILO’s new guide to create awareness on youth rights at work

The ILO developed and launched a new guide to support young people, including the ones in forced displacement contexts, to understand their labour rights, in turn empowering them to advocate for fair and dignified working conditions.

News | 23 February 2024

Geneva, SWITZERLAND (ILO News) – At a virtual event held on 14 February 2024, the International Labour Organization (ILO) launched a unique guide, “Work Wise Youth: A guide to youth rights at work”. Ouided Bouchamaoui, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2015 honoured the event as a keynote speaker.

“Despite the rich diversity we see across the globe, one thing is universal across countries, genders, races and beliefs, and that is the aspiration of a decent job and the desire to be treated fairly, in an environment of freedom and equity. These are not mere ambitions; they are fundamental rights – rights that every young person should enjoy as they step into the world of work,” underscored Bouchamaoui.

Her presence and support, facilitated by the strong collaboration between the ILO and the Permanent Secretariat of the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates, encouraged the participation of over 200 attendees, including ILO constituents and young people.

Underlining ILO’s objective of strengthening young person’s rights at work, Mia Seppo, ILO’s Assistant Director General for Jobs and Social Protection, said, “Young people deserve access to decent jobs that offer dignity, equality, a fair income, safe working conditions and social protection. They should have the freedom to express their concerns and to organize and participate in the decisions that affect their lives.”

The event successfully fostered a meaningful dialogue, deriving agreement among young representatives of employers’, workers’, and refugee youth-led organizations to work together for generating awareness among youth about their rights and utility of the ILO’s new guide.

Work Wise Youth is an updated and expanded version of the ILO’s “Rights @ Work 4 Youth: decent jobs for young people” manual published in 2015. The new guide addresses recent labour market changes such as impacts of the poly-crisis, the increasing prevalence of young people working in the digital economy, the growing recognition of protecting mental health in the workplace and the acknowledgement of a safe and healthy work environment as a Fundamental Principle and Right at Work.

“The guide sheds light on young people’s rights at work, including wages, working time, occupational safety and health, prevention of violence and harassment in the world of work, gender equality and non-discrimination, and access to social security. It is intended for ILO constituents, youth-led organizations and other stakeholders involved in initiatives aimed at raising young workers’ awareness of their rights at work, in particular young people in forced displacement contexts.”

The keynote addresses were followed by a panel discussion encouraging participation of youth representatives, who were able to voice their opinions and raise questions about youth policies and the role of the UN system. Marking a global presence, youth-led organizations and networks including the ASEAN Youth Advocates Network (AYAN) Brunei, Global Refugee Youth Network, Nigerian Youth SDGs Network, and the UN Major Group on Children and Youth, participated in the discussions.

“To ensure relevance of the guide for young persons, we engaged in a series of discussions with these youth led organizations. The representatives from these organizations actively contributed in shaping, reviewing and finalizing the contents of this guide,” added Milagros Lazo Castro, Youth Participation and Employment Officer at the ILO.

UN Assistant Secretary-General for Youth Affairs, Felipe Paullier, in his contribution to the panel discussion emphasized the critical importance of safeguarding the rights of young workers. He shared, “The UN Youth Office has a mandate to support efforts to enhance youth representation at the UN. We advocate for youth issues such as improving the conditions of internships and employment opportunities of youth, specifically in developing countries, while ensuring gender balance. This guide will effectively contribute towards accelerating efforts of all the stakeholder.”

Panelists views

When young workers join trade unions, they can have a stronger voice in social dialogue and can ensure that the issues important to them are prioritised in collective bargaining agreements,

Satyajeet Reddy, Chair of the Youth Committee of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and a representative of the Indian National Trade Union Congress, emphasized the crucial role of trade unions in protecting young workers

Employer and Business Membership Organizations (EBMOs) can advocate for the promotion of a conducive business environment for young entrepreneurs to prosper as well as for the provision of entrepreneurship training programmes such as business management, financial literacy, marketing, and e-commerce,

Kingsley Laar, Young Economist and Researcher at the Ghana Employers’ Association agreeing on the crucial importance of youth-inclusive social dialogue, pointed out the role employers’ organisations can play in supporting young entrepreneurs.

The lack of documentation and recognition of their skills and qualifications makes it difficult for young refugees to access decent work in their host countries. Moreover, for those that do find employment, it is largely in the informal economy where they are paid low wages, often experience wage theft, and are working under hazardous conditions,

Foni Joyce Vuni, Global Programme Coordinator of the Global Refugee Youth Network, focused on the challenges young refugees face in the protection and promotion of their rights at work.
Work Wise Youth been produced under the initiative, Advancing Young People’s Engagement and Meaningful Participation in the Partnership for improving prospects for forcibly displaced persons and host communities (PROSPECTS), jointly implemented by the ILO, UNHCR and UNICEF with the support of the Government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. In developing the guide, the ILO leveraged the collaboration with various organizations under the aegis of Decent Jobs for Youth , a multi-stakeholder alliance for the promotion of youth employment.

Watch recording of the event on ILO Live platform