Youth Employment – March 2 2020

Global Issue: Young People Growing up Without Parental Care are Worse Off in Youth Unemployment Crisis

With 68 million young people unemployed globally, finding a job is a struggle for young people everywhere. For many of the young people who grew up in alternative care, the challenge is even greater.

A recent study commissioned by SOS Children’s Villages among 1,816 young people in over 25 countries, of which 350 grew up without parental care, found that although young people from all walks of life face similar challenges in finding work, those who grew up without adequate parental care are generally worse off. Although the majority (30%) of the 1,816 respondents were working full-time, there were large discrepancies in employment rates among the two respondent groups. People who grew up without parental care are much less likely to be working in full-time employment (26% vs. 41%) and more likely to be unemployed and looking for work (23% vs. 16%), the study found.

The survey compared responses from young people who grew up with their parents versus those who grew up without parental care, including in kinship care or other alternative care.

“Without having thick skin as a care leaver, life is very tough,” says a young man from Zimbabwe who grew up in alternative care. “Without anyone to motivate, encourage and help you find employment or to empower you, it's so difficult." A care leaver refers to someone who grew up in alternative care and is transitioning to independence.

Despite their differences, respondents who grew up with their parents and those who grew up without adequate parental care identified the same overarching challenges in finding work. Financial limitations affected nearly every second young person (>44%), whereas nearly every third young person faced discrimination in their search for work (>27%). Mental health issues, including stress, anxiety and depression, also affected nearly 1 in 3 young people (>26%).

In terms of employment-specific obstacles to finding a job, lack of opportunities and lack of job experience were ranked as the greatest obstacles to finding work (46% and 45% respectively) by all 1,816 respondents.

“It’s a catch 22,” says a young man from Croatia who grew up with his parents. “Experience is required but no one is offering a job to accumulate that experience.”

“Work experience is one of the biggest barriers that prevent young people from finding work,” says a young Paraguayan woman who grew up without parental care.

While both groups share a majority of challenges in their search for work, the research found that those who grew up without parental care recognise the importance of support networks more than their counterparts who grew up with their parents.

Specifically, having a mentor (18%) and having connections (23 %) were ranked as more important by young people without parental care than by peers who grew up with their parents (12 % and 18 % respectively).

The findings reflect that many young people who grow up in alternative care experience a lack of support, especially once they “age out” of care at 18 despite not being ready to take the leap to independence. Young people without parental care must reach financial independence more quickly than their peers, as research shows that legislative and practical support falls away dramatically as soon as they turn 18. This age corresponds to the end of legal entitlements rather than their actual level of maturity and readiness to step into independent living.

Lacking that support, mentors and connections can provide much needed guidance from trusted adults. These solid and long-term connections provide the emotional security which is essential for them to thrive in the future.

SOS Children’s Villages works with young people all over the world to help them transition to independence. The global partnership for youth employability – YouthCan! – integrates the three pillars of mentor, train, and practice to provide professional guidance through mentoring, first work experience and skills training to young people without parental care.

In recent EU co-funded projects - Prepare for Leaving Care and Leaving Care - SOS Children’s Villages worked with international projects partners to train care professionals in how to apply a child rights-based approach in their work with young people leaving care and strengthen support networks for young care leavers.