Lack of decent work additionally affects well-being, frequently creating frustration and discouragement, which risk triggering more severe mental health problems such as depression, strained family relations, and even contributing to anti-social behaviours such as drug abuse (International Labour Organization, 2010, p. 2). Poor working conditions also lead to a variety of minor to serious physical and mental health issues.
Youth employment challenges further influence social institutions and processes such as marriage and parenthood for young people. In response to their employment situation, there is some evidence that young people are delaying marriage and pregnancy, adjusting family size and assuming increased caregiving responsibilities. Many young people are also moving back home with family or sharing homes to cut expenses.
What young people say:
Youth employment and well-being – what have been the positive/negative impacts of your job on your family life?
• The linkages between youth employment and a country’s social, economic as well as political health were aptly highlighted in the post-conflict context of Sierra Leone by Bob, who works with the National Secondary School News Network Youth Desk:
“The employment of youth…has positive implications for economic growth, political stability and national security. On the other hand, youth unemployment has negative implications likely to result in economic downturns, political instability, national insecurity and a high possibility of reversals in peace gains since the war ended in 2002. Understanding the state of Sierra Leone’s youth in terms of employment is therefore crucial to assessing the direction in which Sierra Leone is heading in peace gains and the transition from fragility to development.”
• Participants widely identified the benefits of employment with independence in terms of leaving the home of their parents or other caregivers, both out of a sense of responsibility and with a view towards the possibility of starting a new family. They shared a common concern that high rates of unemployment “discourage people from getting married because they won't have enough means to build a family – meaning enough money for health, paying government taxes, having children and taking care of their needs” (Loubna, 23-year-old female, Morocco).
Another participant further expressed the desire to support his future children without total reliance on government social assistance.
• Joseph pointed out that in his country of Latvia, young people can find jobs, but:
“…with the minimal salary – 230 euros that is standard for 40 per cent of vacancies – it is impossible to live normally, because you even cannot afford to rent a flat; maybe it is enough to rent a room, but a person needs to buy food, clothes, etc. And you cannot afford a child, to make a family. That's why many people aged 18-25 leave our country. …I want to live like a person.”
Andrew painted a similar – yet even more stark – picture of the situation in his country, Rwanda: “The employment of most youth in developing countries has little impact on their lives, because most of the youth come from poor families; when one gets a job…the starting of a new family becomes a problem. Secondly, youth depend on low-paid jobs which may not allow them to meet all [of their] basic needs.”
• Amadou, 24, from Senegal revealed that while young men in his country prefer to have a job before marriage because they are expected to be providers, and are getting married later in life, educated young women are also choosing to do the same “…because they want to be more independent. Personally, I think the same. I don't want to get married until I am financially independent. It could have negative effects on a couple’s well-being.”