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Talent on the Move: Listening to children and young people on the move to unlock their potential

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Nearly 40 per cent of young people on the move identify education and training as top priorities, according to new UNICEF poll

NEW YORK, 14 July 2021 – Nearly 40 per cent of migrant and displaced youth identified education and skills training as their top priorities, while 30 per cent named employment opportunities, according to a new UNICEF poll announced on the eve of World Youth Skills Day.

Approximately 70 per cent of those surveyed also said limited financial resources prevent them from accessing learning opportunities, while almost 40 per cent reported a lack of available jobs as their biggest barrier to earning an income.

These findings were revealed through a U-Report poll of more than 26,000 people, including almost 9,000 young people (aged 14-24), across 119 countries. The poll, conducted between 6 May and 1 June 2021, asked respondents about their aspirations to learn and earn, and the unique barriers they face – as a girl or as a refugee, trying to access the labour market with or without legal status. Insights from the poll along with stories from migrant and displaced youth themselves are included in the newly released ‘Talent on the Move’ report from UNICEF.

The poll also found that the majority of youth on the move want to learn professional skills (e.g. law, administration, business, education), followed by languages and tech skills. Almost 90 per cent reported feeling that they can contribute their opinions, skills and talents in their community.

“Children and young people on the move are telling the world that they have big dreams and aspirations for their lives,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. “Yet many are prevented from securing opportunities for learning or employment because of their migration status or lack of financial resources and support systems. It is time for the international community to help them achieve their dreams and ambitions, and unlock new openings for them to learn, earn and thrive.”

The report shows how young people represent a unique, yet largely untapped pool of talent, ideas and entrepreneurship. Despite their potential to help solve some of the world’s greatest challenges, refugee, migrant and displaced youth are often left without recognized credentials, social networks, mentors, or peer support, as they move and settle in unfamiliar places.

Case studies presented in the report demonstrate clearly that with the right support to develop their skills and transition into gainful employment, millions of young migrants or refugees have the potential to be great innovators, job creators and pillars of families and communities around the world. Their examples are a call to action to acknowledge their talents and potential.

The report highlights the need to invest in and scale up solutions that provide portable, flexible, personalized, adaptable and inclusive learning to earning pathways for young people as they move, as well as meaningful opportunities for young people to create positive social impact in their communities, networks and homes. Without concrete commitment, investment and action, the Global Migration and Refugee Compacts and the Sustainable Development Agenda will fail to achieve their goals for young people on the move.

As part of the report, UNICEF urges governments and policy makers to adopt specific recommendations which include:

  1. Recognize young people on the move as positive assets and rights-holders.

  2. Build more relevant, sustainable and effective education and work systems for young people on the move that recognize their rights and agency.

  3. Ensure that education systems respond to changing job markets and demand, providing young people on the move with the key employability skills such as soft skills, critical thinking and adaptability.

  4. Create and connect youth on the move with employment and livelihood opportunities – both online and off – and foster their talents to address local market challenges and fill talent gaps.

  5. Involve young people on the move at all levels in decision making processes that will affect their lives.

  6. Partner with youth on the move to build a better more resilient world for all generations – and leverage their talents to cocreate solutions.

  7. Invest in youth on the move – in their capacity-building and participation.

There are currently 281 million international migrants. One in five is a young person and 36 million are children. Worldwide, more than 4 out of 10 forcibly displaced persons are younger than 18, with 33 million children living in forced displacement either within their own country or abroad. Each day of 2020, an additional 26,000 children were displaced by climate-induced disasters alone.

Media contacts

Christopher Tidey
UNICEF New York
Tel: +1 917 340 3017
Email: ctidey@unicef.org