Aspirations and the Future of Work

Youth Aspirations and the Future of Work: A Review of the Literature and Evidence

Drew Gardiner, Micheline Goedhuys

International Labour Organization

Richard Barrett Research Associate at Education and Employers has written an article about the report – read it here.

Suggested citation:

Gardiner, D., Goedhuys, M. 2020. Youth Aspirations and the Future of Work: A Review of the Literature and Evidence, ILO Working Paper 8 (Geneva, ILO).

 

“The aspirations of young people are essential to their human capital investment, educational choices and labour market outcomes.”

This paper places young people’s aspirations into the context of current and future changes in labour markets. It focuses on an important question – whether it is possible to improve the aspirations of young people – even those most economically marginalized.

The report highlights how young people‘s ability to benefit from the changing nature of work relies on their preparation across both skills attainment and their ambition and aspiration. The aspirations of young people are essential to their human capital investment, educational choices and labour market outcomes.

Understanding aspirations matters when developing effective employment policies. If the career aspirations and life goals are not considered, employment policies aiming to “match” skills with labour market opportunities may fail young people.

The authors develop the concept of aspirations by investigating discussion of aspirations and the economy including perspectives from psychology and behavioural economics.

The work covers

  • The concept of aspirations (how they differ from beliefs and expectations, how they might be biased and how they might fail);
  • What shapes and drives aspirations (poverty, policy shocks, role models, community structures and peers’ networks); and finally
  • The effectiveness of aspirations (results from empirical studies on aspirations and policy implications).

The report concludes with recommendations for improvements to surveys which can then yield improved insights into young people’s aspirations. These recommendations include sampling young people not in employment, education or training and comparing their answers with those engaged in education or work as well as questions about current activity or occupational status and personal and/or family characteristics.

The paper’s policy recommendations include improved career counselling to better relay information about the types of jobs available in a given labour market, helping to raise aspirations and better align aspirations. The authors also recommend improving technical and soft skills training as these are important in reducing young people’s lack of labour market opportunities.

The authors quote from a study of young people’s aspirations in Ghana “Aspiring is a skill that not all young people have developed and so needs to be taught. Young people need to be encouraged to think about their future in a way that is both realistic and stretches them”.

Finally, the report highlights that programmes that provide experiential information on how to integrate into the labour market, and have financial aid in this, are more likely to elicit a positive response from its target population, as it helps visualize the different ways in which financial resources can be put to good use.

Read the full paper here.