Teach a man how to fish. But do you know how to teach fishing?

Pouring over 40,000 studies, a team of researchers shortlisted 103 credible impact evaluation studies of youth employment programmes. They report
Only 30 percent of programs in our database were successful; the majority had no positive effect or the effect was most likely the result of chance. Moreover, among the successful programs the effect size was often small. This is dramatic. Most of the programs operating out there have not even been evaluated. But most likely, only a few are achieving what they were set up to do 
Economist Paul Niehaus, also the founder of GiveDirectly, paraphrased this beautifully as follows
Youth employment programmes seems an obvious idea. The reasoning sounds impeccable: Youth don't have skills. Hence they aren't getting jobs. Let's skill them. Hence the attraction.

However, there's a huge evidence from across the world that youth employment programmes don't necessarily work, in terms of providing employment and sustaining the people in jobs. 

India has launched a massive skill training programme called Skill India. The youth employment programmes in India till now have been no exception to the challenges cited above.

Why is it so? Answering this question is of great relevance to developing countries. Since youth employment programmes is logically the first step that governments do, it's better we do it better. There's no one answer. It's probably a mix of various parameters.

The paper mentioned in the beginning has some pointers to do skill trainings better.

In context of India, Rajiv Yuva Kiranalu (RYK), a youth employment programme of  Andhra Pradesh, implemented much before Skill India also provides some insights. In the RYK programme, a component of fee reimbursed by the government was conditional on students staying employed for a certain period of time, without dropping out. Students were dropping in few months after employment. It wasn't in control of the skill trainers. They compensated for the loss in revenue by hiring low quality trainers commensurate with the pay they receive after deducting the component related to students continuation in jobs. The incentive system thus had unintended consequences.

Pratham points out to a different set of challenges. The typical students of skill training programmes are from rural background. They face issues in obtaining housing in urban areas, getting SIM cards and adjusting to urban environment. Some of them find it difficult and hence drop out.

Further, it could also be because people aren't getting the jobs they like. They might not be satisfied with the wages and so on.

These are just an inkling of the types of challenges. There might be several such bottlenecks in the youth employment programmes and even in later stages, leading to their not so impressive successes. It's essential to identify those so as to work upon them. It's an area craving for research. As Paul Niehaus says, we should at least know how to teach fishing before prophesizing "teach a man how to fish".

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