The largest wave of young people in history – 1.7 billion strong – will enter the global labor force over the course of the next decade. An estimated 85 million young men and women are currently unemployed, representing close to half of all the unemployed world-wide.

Chronic poverty passes from one generation to the next unless young people acquire the tools and have the opportunity to earn a living wage. Work is not only critical to survival; it helps define who we are and enables us to contribute to family and societal wellbeing. For youth who are unsuccessful at obtaining gainful employment or income, the potential consequences include poverty, alienation and involvement in high-risk activities.  Alternatively, the prospect of earning an income creates a sense of economic independence, self esteem, and purpose that empowers youth to look to the future.

EMpower looks towards a future in which young people can readily access the training and opportunities they need to find or create decent work.  To bridge the gaps that currently exist, EMpower aims to help young people develop a range of abilities, including literacy and numeracy, and technical, entrepreneurial, practical, social, and managerial skills.

EMpower supports programs that:

  • Enhance the employability and job-readiness of young people.
  • Increase the financial literacy of young people.
  • Help young people build assets: saving for the future, accessing microcredit where appropriate.
  • Prepare youth to increase their livelihood potential through self-employment entrepreneurship, vocational skills (including in areas that open new horizons, such as construction for young women).

“The program has changed the course of my life because now I can decide who I want to be and what I want to be. I know firstly that I have to understand and always be myself, know my rights, and have a plan for my future. I have expectations and goals for myself.”

Yannis, age 18. Centro Mujeres, Baja California, Mexico