A digital divide and employment crisis in the world's poorest nations could force eight in 10 young people to become entrepreneurs, the UN's children fund said.
Unicef executive director Henrietta Fore told the 75 Minutes for Global Collaboration, an online event hosted by the World Government Summit, that young people face an uncertain future in a world ravaged by Covid-19.
“Closing the digital divide is the number one area that would allow us to reimagine our world, particularly for young people, as it is the ladder out of poverty,” she said.
“We want every young person and child to have a future.”
She said young people wanted a modern education with new ideas to equip them with the skills they need for the future.
“We believe that eight out of 10 young people in low- and middle-income countries will need to make their own jobs,” said Ms Fore.
“They will need to be entrepreneurs, to learn everything from how to put up solar panels, to be an electrician or plumber.
“They will need to learn how to be a teacher, doctor or nurse to be able to have a livelihood.”
Ms Fore referred to the UN-backed Generation Unlimited programme, a public private platform to deliver modern education to young people and connect them to skills and jobs.
Under the initiative, India has a programme allowing young people to see their future lives, so they understand the skills they may need.
It shows what kind of courses they need to get into that profession.
“Children in Vietnam have been connected with mentorships and other apprentice programmes,” said Ms Fore.
“It is exciting and appealing, it shows if you can do productive things with the internet young people are drawn to it.
“The best way to arm children and protect them is to educate them so they know to go to authentic sources for information.”
Also speaking at the conference, Mohammed Al Gergawi, the UAE Minister of Cabinet Affairs, said more jobs would be desperately needed in a redefined world created by Covid-19.
“Some 600 million new jobs are needed in the next decade,” Mr Al Gergawi said,
“We see new opportunities and investment in renewable energy that could add up to 12 million jobs in that time.
“It has all been disrupted by a microscopic virus and the world has reached a turning point.
“Complementing our vision for the future is only beginning now through youth engagement, but we must work together to correct the course of action for the future.”