Themes Tackling Youth Unemployment

Globally, 75 million young people are unemployed, but businesses can't find enough skilled workers to fill job vacancies. How can a country tackle the Education to Employment challenge?

The Report

By Mona Mourshed, Diana Farrell, and Dominic Barton

Around the world, governments and businesses face a conundrum: high levels of youth unemployment and a shortage of job seekers with critical skills

Download the report

Around the world, governments and businesses face a conundrum: high levels of youth unemployment and a shortage of job seekers with critical skills. How can a country successfully move its young people from education to employment? What are the challenges? Which interventions work? How can these be scaled up? These are the crucial questions.

In this report, we attempt to answer them. To do so, we developed two unique fact bases. The first is an analysis of more than 100 education-to-employment initiatives from 25 countries, selected on the basis of their innovation and effectiveness. The second is a survey of youth, education providers, and employers in nine countries that are diverse in geography and socioeconomic context: Brazil, Germany, India, Mexico, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

We started this research recognizing the twin crises of a shortage of jobs and a shortage of skills. In the course of it, though, we realized we needed to take into account another key shortage: the lack of hard data. This deficiency makes it difficult to even begin to understand which skills are required for employment, what practices are the most promising in training youth to become productive citizens and employees, and how to identify the programs that do this best.

The state of the world’s knowledge about education to employment is akin to that regarding school-system reform a dozen years ago, prior to groundbreaking international assessments and related research. We hope this report helps fill this knowledge gap.

> Download the full report

> Download the executive summary

> Download the ebook

> View the Education to Employment home page

> Read more on the McKinsey Center for Government site


46 responses to “Education to Employment Report”

  1. Why do we agonise over the ‘short-comings’ of education in preparing future generations for employment, while completely ignoring broken recruitment?

    • paulroden says:

      The problem is that businesses and corporations want something for nothing. They complain about not have adequately trained employees coming out of the public school systems, but then want tax breaks and exemptions for coming or remaining in a community. How do you expect these workers to be trained without taxes? They will close up shop and move anywhere on the planet, just to maximize profit. Labor is just seen as a cost to be cut. So robots and automation can be done anywhere on the planet to make things. Customer service is sourced in the cheapest labor market they can find. There is no loyalty to any one country, just the mad pursuit of profits to please shareholders and to gain bonuses or stock options for the next quarter.

  2. Ryan McClure says:

    Is it crazy to imagine a functional super-national body empowered to govern certification?

    You could still have regional compliance training but Industrial Welding is not a whole lot different whether you are in Canada, Sweden or the United States.

    If such an organization had a real budget for marketing I believe the recruitment problem would go away.

    Have a look at was “CSI” did for forensic pathologists and crime lab technicians.

  3. I love this report! Thank you for putting the effort into a very important subject. We have far too many people out of work and so many vacancies.

    Sign me up for the system integrator role here in the US. I’m afraid I’ll be unemployed forever in this current system.


  4. James Harrison says:

    I think that this work and report has raised some very good points which can be addressed but also some tough questions that need further in depth consideration.
    For example, are we sure that the economy downturns in some of the developed countries are going to be turned around by conventional means? Can we expect governments and employers to be the creators of future economies rather than other factors that are not under their control? To what extent is future employment going to be the province of large employers so much as small employers and self employment? To what extent is employment or earning a living not going to be local but transnational via the web coordinated by say high trust peer networks?
    Given the reducing lifecycle of products and technologies can employers even in collaborative groups guarantee employment at the end of 2-4 years of training? Can people continue to feel part of employment contracts where the equation is one where the employee is always treated as a cost rather than as an asset?
    And finally to what extent should the 10 or so years of mainstream schooling be giving young people all of the major life skills that should simply be finished off by a shorter periods of employment preparation? I am minded by the saying that to keep on doing the same thing if it is not giving the required result is not going to lead to new solutions

  5. Rajiv Phadke says:

    This report is very timely. Unfortunately, the number of unemployed youths may be much more than 75 Million – India alone may have this number ! Unemployment & unemployability are indeed very serious challenges faced by the world and urgent corrective action by all stakeholders is needed to reduce the huge mismatch. Based on my work with this challenge among the poor in India for the past 3 years, I wish to add two important points, to the discussion :
    First is the fact that many youths from urban areas, have very unrealistic career aspirations and unwilling to enroll for vocational training programs with job guarantees ! Many drop out after joining entry level jobs – even from white collared jobs in the organized sectors.
    Second problem stems from the age old social structure which treats male youths as prima dona and does not push them to work….thus many youths even from poorest households, to do no productive work, till they find their dream job ! Most do not find these and eventually drift into anti social activities and become dysfuntional – socially as well as economically. Another challenge related to old social customs, is about lack of Dignity of Labour for certain types of jobs….

    • Maqbool says:

      I totally agree with you Mr Rajiv Phadke. The situation you mentioned the youth from urban areas have really the aspiration to do something of a different nature according to their perception and understanding. If they fail to succeed in attaining a desired job of their own, they become very disappointed. This very situation exists in our country Pakistan as well. But our youth has been much more disappointed due to the recurrent failure of democratic processes from the last 60-65 years of country’s history and turmoils caused by the army. Now the big challange is that of terrorism, which is leaving drastic effects on the overall thinking of the youth……!

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    • Jan Somers says:

      Recently I visited during my tour in South India, after attending the Global Learning Festival in Chennai, the magnificient JSN school of management in Kanchipuram. I had the opportunity to facilitate a dialogue amongst the students about what it is that makes this school different/ special. Some students formulated it like this: “This school does not deliver job seekers, it delivers job creators.”
      This school has been started by Prof. S Nandakumar who unfortunately died. His dream to start a business management school for students from rural areas in India was built on his desire to support the students in their way to ‘human excellence’.

      I was quite impressed as a Belgian self-employed business coach – trainer by this.

      Jan Somers

    • Tapera Muzira says:

      I agree

  6. Pirkko Salo says:

    Are trying too hard to educate the young people.. The same way we were supposed to learn iqn the 70′?

  7. Totally agree with James Harrison’s comments. That of employment and education is the quintessential complex, wicked problem. Consider for instance that in the past, companies experiencing lower competitive pressures, for example because of longer life-cycle of products and services, could afford to invest heavily in on-the-job training, while in the past thirty years there has been a consistently growing demand to do more on-the-job training while in school through internship and apprentice programs, so that people come to the job ready to hit the ground running (or almost), but that changes the mix of competencies that people develop, more specialized expertise and less strategic thinking capabilities, to mention one, which in turns influences how business compete and how governments operate. In the future, with even more reliance on small businesses and self-employed people, how would that balance between general education and vocational training change? Think of the possible impact of 3D printing. It is likely that, rather than home manufacturing, the real impact will be on the reduced importance of economies of scale with small local shops delivering a lot of goods, instead of large consolidated plants. The result could be even fewer jobs in supply-chain optimization, manufacturing optimization, which require more strategic skills, but much more jobs for local manufacturing and customer support, product customization and so forth, which are good in terms of total number of jobs for the economy, but require more practical skills. This overall theme is front-and-center to the ability to make our economies sustainable in the future

  8. Aniket Bagve says:

    I can imagine the need of the solution of this problem/situation as one of my friend despite being from top engineering and management schools is finding being underemployed. There is real need of imparting practical knowledge than age old information gathered just for the Teacher’s sake.

    • Makola says:

      I think there is also the problem of matching the type of skills employers (in real time) want, or expect young people to have, to how best young people can be trained to do those jobs. Can you imagine someone holding MBA and and applying for jobs and not getting the jobs? What might have gone wrong in this case?

    • Suhasksagar says:

      “Earn & Learn” – may be one of good option for this problem, The govt of india must have to develop some programme with NGO in hand. at least those poor youth who has desire for education but due to financial condition can not. they can earn money while doing some job & spent on self education. in future those young will be educated and increase the Good citizens count and as society we will able to prevent many youths who can become anti-social agents.

  9. Sunil Chaturvedi says:

    very timly report about a subject about which everyone talks , and despite good intent, unable to do any thing !
    But those who do, are succesful in creating employable & happy students/ employees.
    If a student is able to read beyond boundries,retain value system which his/her parents inculcated,retain what he/she learnt in the institute, is fluent in language & meets every person as if his/her day is made by the meeting , I firmly believe, based on my more than 4 decades of industry& academic life, he/she cannot remain unemployable.

  10. Vfpvt00 says:

    Perhaps we’re all approaching this the wrong way. Harping the negatives isn’t going to turn the ship around. We know what the problem is, though many a politician and corporation may not want to acknowledge. The answer to start hiring the unemployed, start with those that are actively searching for work and give them MEANINGFUL work! Stop pretending that the problem is someone else’s or the unemployed. The more people in employment, the faster the economy grows, the more people will want to work. Corporations need to stop being picky about who they hire. If the person you hire is not up to scratch and you need staff, then don’t you think you’re better off to train that person than go back on the hire for someone who may or may not come up to scratch. Stop playing the lottery with the unemployed and be humane!

  11. Vincent KCF says:

    Excuses, excuses and more excuses. When are we going to stop making excuses and just get on with giving people decent meaningful opportunities. They say if there is a will there’s always a way. Companies need to stop making excuses about not being able to hire the right staff, they need to get back on the training wagon and start making training opportunities available so that there is pool of qualified people to hire from. Companies need people not cattle, stop treating the unemployed like cattle!

    • paulroden says:

      The problem is that in a global economy, businesses will source their manufacturing in the cheapest labor market. Businesses tend to look at labor as a cost and want the cheapest labor source that they can find. They don’t view workers who create their product or deliver the service as a critical partner in their business operation, only as a cost to cut in order to maximize profit.

  12. shri says:

    While the report is not just India centric, it may be true of many emerging economies including India that the growth story has touched many but also left out many who simply graduate and have nowhere to go..We have also failed to convince the ‘now’ generation about virtues of hard work, integrity and commitment. At the same time their aspirations are so high that they wish to land on top corporate positions without climbing the ladder.Companies on the other hand do no mentoring,do not set expectations right at the beginning and often deal indifferently with ‘outsourced graduates’Academic institutions have forgotten quality teaching,concentrating instead on how ‘good’their statistics are.
    Nertheless, a ray of hope always emrges. Many bright young entrpreneurs are entering the vocational education arena.If they partner with corporates right from beginning it could create a highly ’employable’ pool.

  13. Dr. Fred Mugambi says:

    This is a good report. But I am surprised (almost shocked) that Africa was given a complete blackout by the study. I thought this was supposed to be a report on global educational processes and matters? The world has progressively become a global village. We cant ignore some parts of the world and yet purport to have a global report.

  14. ThirstyHowl says:

    Shrinking industries are disinvesting in workers. They expect training provided by years of experience to respond to entry level offers. Thus the hotel and restaurant industry is least likely to see educated young people as properly prepared for the job!

    This is spectacularly important, far beyond the scope the study claims. Displaced workers from one shrinking industry are NOT welcome in a similar industry. And they are perceived as “too different” from those recruited into the high growing industries that seek flexible people.

    Many skills employers say they seek are completely different from those provided by education. Teamwork comes most easily for those who are actively engaged by the team. Leadership improves with the listening skills of others on the team. Both teamwork and leadership lead to improved creativity and problem solving. Work ethic depends on a worker’s sense that the team cares. On the factors that employers care most about, no amount of education is a substitute for a growing business.

    Considering the overhead we devote to advanced education, both in years of workers’ time and in the quality and quantity of the staff assigned to this training, can’t we produce more Republican profit and Democratic consumer surplus in our GNP ?

  15. Great report. I will be using this information to educate our educators. The time is now to bring the community together to build the community. Educators and businesses cannot do this in isolation.

    I do question your automotive example on page 68. Vernier calipers and micrometers would be the wrong tools to use to disassemble and clean brake parts. Both of these expensive tools would be damaged if you tried to do this.

  16. Great report. I will be using this information to educate our educators. The time is now to bring the community together to build the community. Educators and businesses cannot do this in isolation.

    I do question your automotive example on page 68. Vernier calipers and micrometers would be the wrong tools to use to disassemble and clean brake parts. Both of these expensive tools would be damaged if you tried to do this.

  17. Bryant C. Mitchell says:

    Peace and Blessings be upon you. I believe that one of the fundamental issues is that many colleagues don’t possess the right skills, organizational structure, and knowledge of the job market to help their students identify and match their talents with the appropriate career opportunities. For example, many small to medium universities, mine included, still use centralized career services. It is virtually impossible for such a structure to provide the type of customized services needed to promote the talents of students from 4 to 5 different schools let alone 15 to 20 different academic programs.

    Many of these institutions should consider out-sourcing their career services activities down to the departmental level. Clearly, what is needed in today’s economy is for college and universities to provide each student executive type search firm capabilities by discipline or academic program. My sense is that colleges and universities need to and can be far more aggressive and innovative in helping their graduates find jobs.

    Peace be unto you,

    Bryant C. Mitchell, Cleveland (1984 to 1985)

  18. Tracy Rayner says:

    Maybe if our educational system was more focused on producing graduates with skills instead of well-rounded students, it would be different. I’m an accounting major at a state university. My undergraduate degree requires 122 hours. 27 come from accounting, which isn’t even 25% of my required courses. This for a major that produces CPA to handle finance intensive areas like tax, audit, risk management, etc. If I didn’t need so much extra in the way of humanities/arts/crap I’ll never use at work, I could dedicate more time to things that might help me become a good CPA – internships in different areas, specialty coursework such as public policy finance. But no, my school says that if if I take more than 10% of what’s required for an undergraduate degree, I will pay a 25% surcharge on tuition. All the while making me take classes that do nothing for my networking or technical skills to do the job I intend to do.

  19. selalonde from Phil says:

    The only easy solution to alleviate this is to commit to more Education ( funded from the government and make sure that it is a ‘quality’education ). we cannot solve “”Ïnequalities”” , as also mentioned by the Microsoft guy. when you find a solution to inequalities I would be the first to bring my whistle and champagne to toast

  20. Registration Co says:

    This work is as usual confused with intellectual sophistry and lack of practical experience in terms of what employers want from employees. That fact and related matters are ignored in educational centres worldwide by the established intellectual educators whom are not in the employment sector. Most education is used to create process artists and service agents engaged to complete a task for which they are trained without being aware that the service must be paid for or generate a profit before anyone can be employed – other than Governments and related charitable entities. Which is why so much focus arises in relation to Government support and employment rather than from the market. The entire educational process has to be transformed in order to fix the problem.

  21. MarkTowne says:

    I’m not a youth. I’m nearly 60. I have a remarkable education typical of McKinsey consultants, but I graduated in 1980, “the year 2008 wasn’t worse than.” I have been unable to generate job interviews for a VERY long time, in part because I used to work in a field related to heavy construction.

    Part of the issue appears to be extensive use of computerized resume scoring systems. These programs judge even highly competent people to be unfit it their experience is not among the closest matches to the posted job description.

    We have a system that “proves” some of our most competent people are “inflexible” and “proves” that our new graduates without experience are “unfit” for many jobs. The worse the economy gets, the tighter the matches the computers provide, and the more people are screened out for nonconformity. A huge part of the problem is the computerized definition of “competence,” in combination with too many people chasing too few jobs.

    We need to do a better job of identifying skills among our young people and we need to do a better job of identifying profitable work for them to do. Clearly it’s a waste of valuable people to have them sitting around doing nothing. We need to recognize that throwing resumes at computers is no more productive than sitting on a street corner, which might at least qualify as “neighborhood patrol.” Blaming people who can’t get interviews for an inability to get attention to their plight is nutty. More right wing KITA motivation doesn’t get them interviews. We need to find and fund more ways to put the skills of good people to profitable work.

  22. Col Jacob says:

    I am more than convinced about the relevance of reinterducing vocational training in school as insisted by the father of our nation’Shri MK Gandhi’. As i child i remember we learnt basic skills of carpentry, making domestic electric supply connections, Cooking special dishes at school, repairing electric gadgets etc . Those lessions i learnt are very handy even today. We need to address two aspects. Firstly, the aim of education must be to impart relevant knowledge and not load children with data . Secondly,the aim of education must be to impart/ develop skill as per the capability and potential of each child to enable them to be an entrepreneur. The good aspects of Indian system of education prevalent in the ancient times is relevant even today. Col (retd) Jacob

  23. Marjorie says:

    This was an exceptional and timely report and underscores the work of the UC Berkeley SAGE Scholars who proudly report that 100% of its students, all coming from poverty and low income backgrounds, go on to jobs or the graduate school of their choice. This group never has to worry about employement; they’re prepared professionally and experientially!

  24. C Holley says:

    When was this published please? I can’t find a date on the document.

  25. Tapera Muzira says:

    Great comments here. The other challenge is the ill-advised obsession by many countries to convert performing technical and vocational colleges into ‘general’ university education. Soon or later in the market there are no technical experts with the relevant skills that companies and industries need in order to develop and grow.

    Add to this more and more technical and vocational skills training are failing to design and deliver courses that respond to or anticipate the labour market demand, particularly in their local economy. I have been amazed that in communities endowed with for example with agricultural resources (fertile soils, good climate, connectivity to markets) you will find a skills training college training rocket scientists? Where we have mining resources, they are tuning out thousands of motor mechanics and dress makers only?

    Then finally the lack of entrepreneurship culture and skills training in both academic and technical skills training. If no one is empowered to create an enterprise and everyone is skilled as a worker how can it be possible to reduce youth unemployment?

  26. D Keum says:

    Most of the discussion has focused on “supply” side of the job market – hinting at various kinds of shortcomings on the part of the youth and the education system. I wholeheartedly agree, but the “demand side” of the job market deserves just as much attention.

    1. Employers wanting to select ready-made talents, not focusing on developing the talents they need.
    2.Profiles and amount of talents firms demand have changed – instead of many entry level applicants, firms look for few, more senior talents. Place it within the context of slow growth, outsourcing and automation.
    3. Education institutions are charged for being “reactive” and not keeping up with industries – this is an impossible order. Firms have difficulty knowing their business plan 1 year out – nor does education institution.

    To quote, Alvin Toffler – “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” Focus of the education should be developing ethics, flexibility and absorptive capacity of the mind, not on teaching some skill that can become obsolete in 2-3 years.

  27. Registration Co says:

    I would be a multi-millionaire for every highly educated person working in a sector that is unrelated to that for which they received an educational accolade – often a taxi driver. If you really want to become educated these days, but cannot access good teaching, then the internet has links to educational courses which are approved and credible. Everyone says the answer is education. The solution is internet access into all parts of any nation with appropriate instruction to avoid the mistake of creating fat students spending all day sitting looking at computer screens. Otherwise any skilled education will be short lived as the entire nation becomes filled with sick and hospitalised patients.

  28. Learner254 says:

    I agree with Rajiv that this report is timely. This issue needs to be addressed and I believe that the onus is on industry to ensure the skills that they require are available to them by creating a connection between themselves and the institutions responsible for producing skilled laborers, that is the schools.

  29. Sunil Gupta says:

    Very useful report in providing context for different initiative all over the world for addressing the skills gap.

  30. shu says:


  31. Jorge Escobar says:

    Excelente informe. hay en su contenido una verdad que debemos hacerla nuestro compromiso.

  32. Lipo says:

    There is an aspect often forgotten and that is the strength of economies to absorb skilled labour. For example, Kenya’s GDP is about 29B$, while that of South Africa is about 230b$, Kenyas production of skilled workers is much higher than South Africa but its economy van’t obviously absorb this labour. As such, the country needs to quickly have measures to grow the economy exponentially (by double digits) to create demand for that skilled labour. Alternatively, need for having policies that would encourage entrepreneurship to create jobs!!!

  33. Adeyinka Isioye says:

    @ Rajiv as much as I agree with you, looking at a Country like Nigeria where I come from we would probably have to trace the root of the problem even deeper-To pre-High/Secondary School and College/University days,most people do not make the right career choices and hence end up drifting post University. I think Education to employment is a good initiative that can help in terms of damage control even after choosing an ill-fitted course in University.

    A system that will realize that your credentials is not always your potential and attempt to match your present skills to a job that requires that skill. A simple solution to a complex problem.

  34. Moris Oceanne says:

    If you look at the CV’s of Energy Experts of World bank, IFC, AfdB, Mc Kinsey etc (LinkedIn) you will see that most of them have a background in Economics or policy ….. LoL
    Rarely Engineers.or People will real Skills on Energy

  35. Edie Patterson says:

    One of the glaring pieces not completely addressed is that in general there isn’t a consensus as to the purpose of education.
    Is it solely to prepare youth to be employed, or can we achieve employability by helping students learn skills as well as learn to think? As we get older, progress in our jobs and life the ability to understand, parse consequences and think ahead is at least as important as knowing how to build/code/plumb.

  36. Stuart says:

    The problem is and no one has an answer for is the employer wants to pay $10 per hour while the cost of study re payment is $15 per hour before living expenses. Never will the twain meet and hence youth will be under and unemployed.
    When the twain does meet, the employer will complain loudly about how useless the graduate is to all and sundry.
    Old saying, you pay for what you get.
    This argument has been going on for centuries and will continue for centuries and will never be solved.

  37. Bill Van Eron says:

    I always value timely research and this, Gartner, Forbes, Aberdeen and others are validating the needs. As one with deep education solution experience and long proven creative problem solving experience, I joined forces with an education solution startup and we now have the prototype for what I believe would easily earn high regard as a timely, easy to apply, comprehensive solution. Our initial thrusts is STEM and a level of business creativity focused on helping entrepreneurs and leaders to adapt. Our approach creates that bridge between education and industry in vital, unprecedented ways while focusing on the travelers – students. Given the huge time drain teachers have to manage to just do what they know, our solution helps them without any disruption. Education can only do so much and some states are trying to take it upon themselves – well intentioned – but not realistic given what our solution can do and how it also helps underprivileged groups equal access to a higher quality learning eco-system. If serious about this, we are seeking modest funding and are confident advocacy will follow, so please contact me at and we can talk about saving education and our youth now, not by 2025 which is too little, too late.
    Bill Van Eron
    CMO -Value Creation Architect
    Headwaters Marketing and Aristotl Visual Learning Environment

  38. Terrence Mackin says:

    This is an important with three separate stakeholder groups who are not collaborating: students, educators and employers. The education culture has to be established as a lifelong journey. More employers dismiss their responsibility to develop talent because they have no guarantee of commitment from an employee. There is no debating that a graduating student is delivered to employment at wide ranges of readiness. Any CEO who doesn’t see employee development as a strategic initiative is probably contributing to the higher turnover rate in that position. People represent an integral part of the brand yet there is insufficient resource allocation to skill development. The other challenge is thinking that an eighteen year old student can have laser focus on where he/she wants to take his/her career. There is no discussion about finding a job you love. Employer blame high turnover is caused by graduates entering the workforce without proper training. College counseling for high school students is under resourced which leaves the parents and their children trying to make critical decisions about the future. The growth of the ed-tech sector is encouraging, but it you still have prestigious colleges who want to extend antiquated teaching methods in order to sustain over priced educations that are now under scrutiny. Learning has to be instilled in the DNA of students as a lifelong journey, both formal and informal self improvement. The US has a huge issue in large inner-cities where many students simply don’t believe that education is the answer or is affordable. Fundamentals in reading, writing and math learned at an early age deserve the most focus at the outset, including the teaching methods for each. Kahn Academy’s challenge to teaching models used to teach math is the brightest light I can point to as paradigm shifts that will transform math and more subjects to follow. The US is still allowing book publishers to squeeze profits out of antiquated text books that aren’t digitized because it would depress book revenue. The problem of education to employment is too big to talk about one grand solution. Granted the the component parts are interdependent, but my fear is trying to lump it all together is creating less change not more. The accreditation process from high school diplomas to advanced degrees to more focussed certificate programs needs to beware of serving self-interests.

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