International Labour Organization report on aspirations reinforces our Drawing the Future findings

In its latest working paper  “Youth Aspirations and the Future of Work – A Review of the Literature and Evidence” published on the 14 September 2020, the International Labour Organization (ILO) used the Education and Employers study Drawing the Future, as part of its evidence demonstrating the ongoing lack of alignment between young peoples’ aspirations and labour market realities. The publication highlights the consequences of this misalignment and suggests steps that could be taken to improve the situation.

The document is of interest to those working in education, policy makers and researchers. Richard Barrett Research Associate at Education and Employers has written an article about the report – read it here.

Undertaken as part of the ILO Future of Work project the paper aims to:

  • review the literature on the concepts and drivers of aspirations;
  • develop a conceptual framework that relates labour market conditions to aspirations;
  • map the existing survey-based evidence on the aspirations of youth worldwide; and
  • provide insights into how to improve data collection, research and evidence-based policy-making related to young peoples’ aspirations.

The paper argues that if policies and programmes help recipients visualize the potential pathways to achieving their goals, development efforts can utilize the motivating power of aspirations.  It identifies three steps in this process: First, individuals need to set a goal for the future (an aspired position). Second, they need to have the necessary agency to carry out the steps required to attain that goal. Third, they need to visualize pathways to achieving that goal, such as access to the cognitive or material tools necessary for their journey.

Youth Aspirations and the Future of Work highlights that exposure to people outside of young people’s immediate social network can have a positive impact on aspiration formation.  The authors suggest that role models have to be people with whom young people can identify socially and whose stories produce a vicarious experience that generates emotions strong enough to spur an individual’s willingness to change their situation.  This reflects our long-held view that young people cannot be what they cannot see.

Interestingly, particularly for the many people involved in our Primary Futures campaign, they indicate that expectations reported at age 14 were the best predictor of the score gap between low- and high-income students.  Therefore, they encouraged policy-makers and education workers to start raising students’ aspirations as early as primary school level.

Access the full ILO report.