Skills & Employability

Results for Development helps generate knowledge for policies and programs that ensure youth in low- and middle-income countries have the skills they need to find work in the 21st century economy.

The Challenge

There are 1.1 billion young people between the ages of 15 and 24 in the world, with the largest numbers concentrated in Asia and Africa. By 2060, Africa will be home to nearly 500 million youth and Asia home to more than 615 million. If these young people are productively engaged, they have the potential to raise the incomes of their communities and stimulate economic growth in their countries (sometimes called a “demographic dividend” or the “youth bulge”). However, 71 million youth are unemployed globally, and the youth unemployment rate is nearly three times that of the adult unemployment rate.

In order for countries to reap the benefits of the youth bulge, it is critical that young people not only have access to education, but also that their schooling is high quality and ensures they have the relevant skills to succeed in the workplace (especially transferable “soft” skills, like problem-solving, communication and leadership).

Secondary schooling is critical but, globally, 200 million youth of secondary school age remain out of school. From 2008-2014, the lower-secondary completion rate was only 27 percent in low-income countries and 68 percent in lower-middle-income countries. And when youth do complete their schooling, they may not graduate with the relevant 21st century skills that are needed for employment in the formal or informal sector.

Our Approach

R4D works closely with change agents — government officials, civil society leaders and social innovators — to advance quality, relevant education and skills development for children and young people. To do this, we leverage our expertise in generating evidence through rigorous, demand-driven research, collaborative learning and strategic, targeted knowledge dissemination. R4D is making progress toward strengthening the school-to-work transition by:

  • Identifying the skills required for work in the 21st century economies of Africa, Asia and Latin America, analyzing the skills mismatch, and studying innovative models and approaches of delivering relevant skills to youth.
  • Serving as an implementing partner in USAID’s YouthPower initiative to improve knowledge, skills, practices and partnerships around international cross-sectoral positive youth development. Our work includes a global meta-review that expands upon the existing evidence base regarding positive youth development and developing a community of practice on cross-sectoral skills to identify and share promising practices.
  • Analyzing initiatives and programs to reduce dropouts at the secondary level in countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, and providing action-oriented recommendations to policymakers.
  • Supporting innovative communities and collaborative learning around skills development through the Center for Education Innovations (CEI).


Photo ©Anseye Pou Ayiti (“Teach for Haiti”)

Global & Regional Initiatives

R4D is a globally recognized leader for designing initiatives that connect implementers, experts and funders across countries to build knowledge and get that knowledge into practice.