top of page

Youth work

Young people experience the world of work differently. Here we explore how.

Youth work

Giulia Parola_edited.jpg
Sonia Nawrocka.jpg
Panos Kalavros.jpeg

Various factors, such as disadvantaged backgrounds, disabilities, low education, immigrant status, rural living, long-term unemployment, underemployment and challenging job markets, place youth among society's most vulnerable groups. 


Economic downturns in the last decade and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic have worsened their situation, with alarming levels of mental health issues reported, particularly loneliness and depression. Developing employability for successful labour market entry is, therefore, particularly important for young workers. 


However, the current support provided to young individuals continues to prioritise guiding them towards long-term, fulfilling careers, despite the scarcity of opportunities and the diminishing relevance of concepts like growth, self-determination, and purpose. 


Against this background, the Youth Work group at EAWOPii focuses on the multifaceted dimensions of youth employment, exploring the barriers and challenges young people face, taking into account shifting political, economic, technological and social macro-systemic factors as well as the local context and related opportunities.


For instance, understanding work-related psychosocial hazards and their impact on mental health is of paramount importance, particularly in the case of young adults. Recent studies have indicated that the younger workforce is more susceptible to mental health issues, which, in turn, can adversely impact their successful integration, continuity, and re-entry into the labor market. 


Furthermore, the emergence of platform work, often known as the "gig" economy, and remote work has introduced a new array of challenges for young workers. The latter include physical and social isolation, algorithmic management, digital surveillance, job instability, and fluid career paths. Additionally, regulatory avoidance and shifting of risks onto workers exacerbate the precariousness of employment arrangements in the platform economy, leading to fluid career paths, where individuals must juggle multiple jobs simultaneously to sustain a stable income. Finally, technology shapes youth employment by creating opportunities and challenges. 


Mental health awareness is vital, especially in precarious work environments. Young adults must navigate these complexities, adapt, and prioritize their well-being to build successful careers.


The importance of EAWOPii's role as a bridge between research, practice and policy highlights the need to identify and share knowledge among stakeholders to support the employment and well-being of young adults. GenZ is expected to account for almost 30% of the global workforce. So, younger generations are already impacting the workplace. Employers must adapt to their needs and contributions to create inclusive and thriving work environments.

The challenge
The youth employment challenge
Belgin Okay-Somerville

Young people experience the world of work differently. Being at the start of careers, they are in the progress forming career identities and building experience and networks. Developing employability for successful labour market entry is therefore particularly important for young workers. However, young people in contemporary labour markets are amongst the most vulnerable to economic downturns such as the great financial crisis in 2008 and the COVID-19 related recession, as they are often on precarious contracts, e.g., zero-hours, with little social protection and poor job quality. 


Lack of employment opportunities that allow young people to build skills and experience progress is a major social problem faced by many industrialised nations over the last few decades. There are simply not enough jobs for young people and the jobs that do exist, are increasingly low-skilled, low-pay jobs with limited opportunities for growth. Nurturing young people’s employability and productivity at work is crucial for maintaining and sustaining their involvement in the world of work. Young people are the future of work!


Youth unemployment and underemployment have implications at the individual (e.g., young people’s relationships, wellbeing, cognitive development, career development and lifetime earnings), social (e.g., criminal engagement and exclusion from society, and social mobility), and economic (e.g., underutilisation of labour force) levels.


The youth employment challenge is multi-faceted involving many key areas that are within the expertise of work and organisational psychology (WOP). For instance, vocational psychology research on employability, job search, career competencies, school-to-work transitions and career development is crucial for preparing young people for labour market entry.


Similarly, research on understanding the experience and consequences of youth unemployment and underemployment have implications for devising better intervention programmes and advising national skill policies to support young people into meaningful work. We know that certain groups of young people, e.g., based on ethnicity or social disadvantage, are more likely to be unemployed or overqualified. WOP research has much to offer on diversity and inclusion for improving young people’s labour market experience.


Moreover, our research on work design and job quality is highly relevant for ensuring young people’s work is motivating and relevant for further career development. WOP research on young people’s use of technology and social media, and employment in new forms of work is also highly relevant for contemporary discussions on the future of work.

More information

Below you can read some more information about the youth employment challenge

chocolate teapot


Young people

and work

Young people lack key resources relevant for securing work.




Investing in one’s employability is particularly valuable for young adults.


Inclusive youth employment

Good work opportunities help young people integrate into society.



youth work

Transition from unemployment can be worse for young people.

choc teapot +logos

EAWOPii webinar

"Making Chocolate Teapots:

Striving for 'Good' Youth Work"

26 November 2021


This webinar launched four policy briefs, based on participants’ research findings relevant for striving for good youth work.


They translated psychological science findings into everyday knowledge relevant for addressing youth employment challenges, including why it is important to tackle the crisis and making recommendations. ​

The four policy briefs were presented by researchers and were followed by discussions with Prof Anneleen Forrier (KU Leuven) and Dr Anthony Mann (OECD). 

Read the briefing papers and watch the short video associated with each.

Briefing papers

Illustrations of the Youth Employment Challenge:
A Digital Exhibition

Dr Belgin Okay-Somerville

An online exhibition of illustrations of the youth (un)employment challenge organised as part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science.

During the event, illustrations produced as a result of the week-long online small group meeting on Young People’s Work, Employment and Careers were displayed.

We have uploaded five short videos with those illustrations from the Festival of Social Science's closing panel discussion and the panel members’ views on improving youth employment systems. 


Young People’s Work,
Employment and Careers

A special issue of the EAWOP Practitioner's E-Journal on Young People's Work, Employment and Careers.

This Special Issue features a mix of full-length empirical papers and stakeholder interviews focusing on key themes related to youth employment, a global social and economic challenge. 

magazine cover
bottom of page