FinDev Blog

To Help Youth Succeed Financially, We Have to Hear Them Out First

Results from Citi Foundation’s Global Youth Survey help us understand what young people need
Making crafts for export in Vietnam. Photo credit: Ngoc Anh Bach, 2016 CGAP Photo Contest.

Opening doors to economic opportunity requires keys.

But how often do we pause to ask our young people about what keys they need to succeed?

Well, the Citi Foundation asked. Through our 2017 Global Youth Survey, conducted by Ipsos, we gauged the economic prospects of 7,000 youth in 43 global cities. We wanted to understand, if given the platform to express themselves, what would young people say about what is needed to help them advance in today’s economy?

Thanks to their responses, we now have a clearer understanding of youth perspectives on economic barriers. And because of that we are also committed to helping young people prepare for what’s on the other side - that includes giving them the financial tools to manage their first paycheck and save for their financial future. The Global Youth Survey is part of the Citi Foundation’s Pathways to Progress global investment to equip 500,000 youth globally with the skillsets needed to thrive in the 21st century job market.

The good news is that despite global uncertainty and change, youth around the world are incredibly optimistic about their future career opportunities. This optimism is grounded in the belief that, relative to their parents, they are much better off in their ability to get an education, achieve their professional goals and have opportunities for professional success.

The entrepreneurial spirit is also strong among young people, with 86% of youth surveyed stating that they dream of opening their own business. What’s more, the vast majority of them indicated they are willing to work long hours to launch their own business. Further, 71% of youth surveyed responded that they believe it is easier to start a new business now compared to their parents’ time.

If youth have the optimism and drive to launch a business, and are in tune with what industry they want to work in, what's stopping them?

Youth also voiced their work industry preferences, indicating the sectors they are drawn to, from technology and science to government, healthcare and internet startups.

So, if youth have the optimism and drive to launch a business, and are in tune with what industry they want to work in, what's stopping them?

In the survey, youth also pointed to persistent barriers and challenges that prevent them from realizing their professional dreams. 67% of youth surveyed believe that college is necessary to be successful, but feel that higher education is beyond their financial means. 79% believe that they need more education and skills to launch a business and 41% stated they need more professional connections. In addition, 48% desire more on-the-job work experience, with eight in ten surveyed believing that internships and apprenticeships are critical to career success, but that the opportunities are few and far between.

At 16% of the world’s population, young people today make up the largest youth population in history. We can’t leave them behind. Youth who are empowered to develop an entrepreneurial mindset and skills, who have access to education, and who are able to hone positive financial behaviors, will grow into adults who become our civic leaders, educators, parents, and individuals who go on to inspire another generation.

Through meaningful partnerships, the Citi Foundation is supporting programs around the world that are expanding the skills of young people, building their networks, and connecting them to jobs. But for young people to continue to feel they are better off than their parents and carry this forward in the long run, they need the knowledge and mechanisms to manage their money--the money they earn from starting their own enterprises or that paycheck from the job they land after an apprenticeship. Financial inclusion will undoubtedly play an integral role in helping youth succeed.

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