45. Unemployment of 15–24 year-olds, each sex and total



Unemployment of 15–24 year-olds is the number of unemployed people ages 15–24 divided by the labour force of the same age group.


Unemployed people are all those who are not employed during a specified reference period but are available for work and have taken concrete steps to seek paid employment or self-employment. In situations where the conventional means of seeking work are of limited relevance, where the labour market is largely unorganized or of limited scope, where labour absorption is temporarily inadequate or where the labour force is largely self-employed, a relaxed definition of unemployment can be applied, based on only the first two criteria (without work and currently available for work).


The labour force consists of those who are employed plus those who are unemployed during the relevant reference period. It is the economically active portion of the population. Employment refers to being engaged in an economic activity during a specified reference period or being temporarily absent from such an activity, while economic activity refers to the production of goods and services for pay or profit or for use by own household.


Goal/target addressed

Goal 8. Develop a global partnership for development.

Target 16. In co-operation with developing countries, develop and implement strategies for decent and productive work for youth.



The indicator monitors the degree to which the youth labour force is utilized in the economy and therefore serves as a measure of the success of strategies to create jobs for youth.


Method of computation

The number of people ages 15–24 who are unemployed is divided by the number of people in the labour force of the same age group.


Data collection and source

Country data are available from Labour Force Surveys, administrative records, official national estimates and population censuses. Labour Force Surveys generally provide the most comprehensive and comparable source of information. Concepts and definitions adopted for data collection in Labour Force Surveys also generally conform to International Labour Organization resolutions and recommendations, such as the International Conference of Labour Statisticians resolution on international standards for unemployment and youth unemployment.



International Labour Organization, Bureau of Statistics, www.ilo.org/stat.

Current International Recommendations on Labour Statistics, 2000, International Labour Organization.

Key Indicators of the Labour Market, annual, International Labour Organization (www.ilo.org/kilm).

Surveys of Economically Active Population, Employment, Unemployment and Underemployment: An ILO Manual on Concepts and Methods, 1990, R. Hussmanns, T Mehran and V. Verma.

Collection of Economic Characteristics in Population Censuses, Technical Report, 2002, United Nations Statistics Division and the International Labour Organization Bureau of Statistics, (ST/ESA/STAT/119).

World Development Indicators, annual, World Bank (www.worldbank.org/data).

Yearbook of Labour Statistics, annual, International Labour Organization, tables 3A-3E.

International Labour Organization, laborsta.ilo.org.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, standardized unemployment rates


Periodicity of measurement

Results from population censuses are normally available every 10 years. Labour Force Surveys may be available annually or even more frequently in OECD countries and generally every three to five years in developing countries


Gender issues

Female unemployment rates are often significantly higher than male unemployment rates. However, unemployment data do not adequately reflect the situation of women in the labour market, especially in developing countries where women are engaged in subsistence work and, more often than men, work in the informal sector. In those settings, women are seldom employed, although they may often be underemployed. Also, women may not have easy access to formal channels for seeking employment, particularly in rural areas, and often face social and cultural barriers when looking for a job. Thus official labour statistics may undercount women’s unemployment (unless the relaxed definition of unemployment is used and adequate criteria are adopted in data collection).


Disaggregation issues

In most countries, data are available separately for men and women.


International data compilations

ILO compiles internationally comparable data series on unemployment and youth unemployment.


ILO Bulletin of Labour Statistics, 2002–4, International Labour Organization.

Key Indicators of the Labour Market, annual, International Labour Organization (www.ilo.org/kilm).


Comments and limitations

The concepts of employment and unemployment have different relevance depending on the level of labour market development and the presence of a market economy. People living in regions of a country where there is little or no formal employment would not usually be classified as “unemployed” even if they are without work and would accept a job if offered one (discouraged workers).


Unemployment is but one dimension of the employment problem faced by young people. A disproportionately large number of youth in many countries are underemployed. Some work fewer hours than they would like to, and others work long hours with little economic gain. Stagnation and decline of employment opportunities in the formal sector of most developing countries have intensified the problem in recent years, with young women bearing a disproportionate share of the burden. Therefore, indicators measuring underemployment, the informal sector, educational access and labour force participation, among others, should supplement the information obtained from the youth unemployment indicator.


Limitations to comparability arise from various reasons, including different sources, measurement methodologies, number of observations per year and coverage. Comparability may also be limited by conceptual variations, involving issues such as the definition of job search or whether to include discouraged workers who are not currently looking for work.



Ministries of labour.

National statistical offices.

International Labour Organization.