Well-being and employment of young people in Ethiopia, India, Peru and Vietnam: Is work enough?

Fiona Carmichael, Christian K. Darko, Nicholas Vasilakos

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Motivation: Investing in youth employment is central to development agendas. However, policy directed towards increasing employment rates among young people needs to consider the well-being implications of the different kinds of jobs they are able to access. This would help countries to meet the Sustainable Development Goal of decent work for all, including young people, by 2030. Purpose: This article examines the association between the well-being of young people in Ethiopia, Peru, India, and Vietnam and their employment and the job attributes of the work they do. Methods and approach: The study uses five waves of the Young Lives longitudinal survey for a sample of children who are followed from the ages of eight to 22. Regression analysis estimates the relationship between well-being, employment, and job attributes, taking into account gender, wealth, current, and childhood health, and exposure to shocks over life-courses from the age of eight. Findings: The results show that in these four countries, employment does not have an unqualified positive effect on well-being. Not all jobs are “good jobs.” Job attributes matter, specifically, who employs the individual, their pay, the work environment, and the pride they take in their work. Well-being is predicted by current and childhood health and household wealth with ownership of consumer durables associated more strongly with well-being than housing quality or access to services. Greater exposure to shocks from the age of eight is found to have lasting effects on well-being into young adulthood. Policy implications: Policy aimed at improving young people’s opportunities for employment in the Global South also to consider the types of jobs they are able to access and how this impacts their well-being. Policy also needs to take into account pre-labour market conditions and circumstances.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12565
JournalDevelopment Policy Review
Issue number2
Early online date18 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022


  • job quality
  • life course
  • low-income countries
  • well-being
  • youth employment

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