FinDev Blog

Cities of Opportunity: Rapid Urbanization and Implications for Youth

Exploring the possibilities and challenges for urban youth financial inclusion
Market in Jakarta. Photo credit: Jeffry Surja, 2015 CGAP Photo Contest.

Throughout history, cities have accelerated economic development and wealth creation around the world. Though there is much heterogeneity among cities of various sizes and locales, the concentration of people, business, and services in urban areas generally allows for increased commerce, ideas and innovation.

The opportunities offered by cities have contributed to their rapid growth since the middle of the 20th century. The world's urban population grew from 746 million (30% of the world's population) in 1950 to 3.9 billion (54% of the world's population) in 2014. While growing, cities have also become younger – most of the three billion people under the age of twenty-five (50% of the world's population) live in urban areas, and according to UN-Habitat it is estimated that 60% of urban populations will be under the age of 18 by 2030.

Unfortunately, the economic potential of cities has not been fulfilled when it comes to serving this increasingly youthful population. In 2013, the global unemployed population increased to 205 million people, with 75 million of those between the ages of 15 and 24. Youth unemployment is responsible for 60% of the increase in those unemployed since 2007, and global unemployment is expected to increase to 215 million by 2017.

This global economic and demographic landscape warrants an increased focus on understanding the characteristics and accelerating the development of youth-inclusive cities. Youth experience the challenges of employment and economic inclusion differently or more acutely than other populations, and strategies should recognize and proactively address these challenges head-on. This is especially true for emerging and developing country cities where youth concentration is highest and urbanization is most rapid.

Making Cents and Citi Foundation’s Cities of Opportunity report coverTo learn more about this topic, the Citi Foundation supported Making Cents International to create a learning product that can help youth economic opportunity practitioners analyze their current and future urban-focused youth economic opportunity programs. The Cities of Opportunity: Drivers and Priorities for Urban Youth Economic Inclusion publication provides a framework for understanding these drivers and addressing them through practical interventions. This document draws upon research and best practices globally to frame the key activities necessary for improving urban youth economic opportunities, (with an emphasis on the global south), outline promising initiatives, and provide links to resources that can help practitioners refine their products and services.

The learning product's central research and learning questions are:

  • What challenges do youth development practitioners face when working on youth economic opportunity programming in urban areas?
  • What are the distinct issues or drivers of economic opportunity for youth in cities?
  • What are the central considerations that should be used in programs specifically designed to advance youth economic opportunity in cities?

It is understood and expected that each city will have its own set of differentiating contexts and factors. Nonetheless, there are common drivers of economic opportunity that impact a young person's ability to participate in his or her city's economy. The following seven drivers are especially important for young people in cities as they are most relevant to young people's developmental needs, they are those that youth are most likely to encounter as they seek employment and economic independence, and are most likely to have a more acute impact on young people.

  • Agglomeration
  • Human Capital
  • Information
  • Adequate Infrastructure
  • Migration
  • Transparent and Participatory Governance
  • Supportive Regulatory and Policy Environment

The Cities of Opportunity: Drivers and Priorities for Urban Youth Economic Inclusion publication is part of Making Cents International and the Citi Foundation's effort to evolve the field and drive economic opportunity for young people globally, particularly as it relates to the economic development of urban youth. The full learning product provides a framework for understanding these drivers and addressing them through practical interventions.


Comments on this page are moderated by FinDev Editors. We welcome comments that offer remarks and insights that are relevant to the post. Learn More

Maureen Lorna Fay Webber , Development Options, Jamaica
17 November 2022

Thanks for this. Actually working on a National Urban Renewal Policy and my input is around vulnerable groups, persons with disabilities, youth, women and street dwellers

Leave a comment