Youth at Heart

The Netherlands is going to improve the prospects of young people in the Sahel, the Horn of Africa, and the Middle East and North Africa. We are investing in education and work, and a better match between them. Young people have their lives ahead of them. They are entitled to the right skills, knowledge and opportunities to build a stable future for themselves and their communities, and thus also for the Netherlands.

The Youth at Heart strategy was devised after consultations with civil society, knowledge institutions and individual experts and with businesses and young people both in the Netherlands and abroad, in person and online.

The strategy is by no means complete. It is the starting point of a more targeted approach to young people’s challenges and opportunities, outlining how the Netherlands plans to achieve its ambition of presenting youth with more and better prospects. In implementing this strategy, we will work in partnership with young people.

Policy objective

There are many young people in parts of Africa and in the Middle East who can neither get an education nor find work. Others do attend school but learn very little. Or they have jobs that do not pay a living wage. Youth unemployment is high. The Dutch government wants to invest in the skills of these young people, giving them a chance to build a stable future.

Investing in youth

Working with other partners, the Netherlands wants to invest in prospects for youth. This will pay dividends for the rest of these young people’s lives. Strengthening the position of women and girls is a crucial factor. The Netherlands is taking this course not only because everyone has the right to decent work and education and the right to live with dignity, but also because of our increasing connectedness with the rest of the world. Stability elsewhere enhances our own security and prosperity.

Shaping policy

The Dutch government wants vocational education to prepare young people more adequately for the world of work by:

  • Seeking partnerships with the various parties that play a role, including the private sector;
  • Focusing on the skills young people need, like digital skills, the ability to work independently and flexibility;
  • Listening to young people themselves through youth participation;
  • Strengthening young entrepreneurs through better access to finance, training and networks;
  • Providing work placements and apprenticeships, career advice and information for job seekers, improving skills through more up-to-date vocational education and training, removing specific barriers that prevent young women from attending school or going to work (e.g. childminding services);
  • Putting youth firmly on the agenda of both governments and our international partners.

Achieving these aims

  • The Netherlands will provide young people with fresh prospects through three major new programmes:
    • The Challenge Fund for Youth Employment (CFYE). CFYE seeks to create future prospects for 200,000 young people (women and men equally) in the Sahel, the Horn of Africa, North Africa and the Middle East by investing in decent work and income. In partnership with the private sector and other relevant stakeholders, initiatives are being developed focusing on, for instance, digital and soft skills.
    • Partnership for Improving Prospects for Forcibly Displaced Persons and Host Communities. The Netherlands is investing through this programme in adequate protection and opportunities for education and work for refugees and their host communities worldwide. Our partners include UNICEF, the World Bank, UNHCR, ILO and IFC. By working together we share a common focus on bridging the gap between education and work.
    • Nexus programme for skills and jobs. Through Nexus Skills and Jobs, the Netherlands funds tailored country programmes addressing the match between labour market demand and supply. The programme will be launched in 9 countries, i.e. Burkina Faso, Burundi, Ethiopia, Jordan, Lebanon, Niger, Tunisia, Senegal and Somalia.
  • In making and delivering policy, the Netherlands will also listen to the voice of youth. We want to be sure that our policy is relevant to the lives of the young people in the countries in our focus regions. The Netherlands also needs to strengthen young people’s voice – by giving them a platform and ensuring their voice is heard in the dialogue with governments, international partners and businesses in the regions.

Full Youth at Heart strategy

Read the full Youth at Heart strategy.

Worldwide there are 1.8 billion young people between 10 and 24 years old.
Most young people are in education or have a job..
but a large group of young people are not.
And when they do have an education, their skills often do not match the labour market’s needs…
particularly in parts of Africa and the Middle-East.
That’s why The Netherlands invests in these young people.

The young population offers tremendous growth potential…
but access to and quality of education are low 
practical training such as hydraulics, crafts, carpentry, industry must be better developed because they are more pragmatic and closer to our needs.

Agriculture could generate more jobs, but holds little appeal for young people.
Besides that, the level of education is low and not sufficiently practice-oriented

In Kenya are very less technicians or agricultural workers so that industry is low-developed. People are just looking for ‘white-collar’-jobs. Until these changes are improved, you can better develop in agriculture, which is cheaper and not such a competitive industry. 

In Syria, Yemen, Libya and Iraq, education and the labour market have been disrupted by conflict for a long time.

Youth unemployment is 26.1%, and among women it’s even higher 

The educational system in Jordan lacks the practical aspect for students.
Students in school are lectured theories that they might use or not use in their practical lives.

How do we invest in youth?
We do so in 3 ways:
Firstly, we set up programmes focused on education and work
Secondly, we scale up projects and join partnerships
Thirdly we aim to strengthen the voice of youth

That’s how we keep the youth at heart.