GEM and Youth Co:Lab of the United Nations Development Programme have published a joint report looking at youth entrepreneurship in Asia and the Pacific.
Focusing on young entrepreneurs aged between 18 and 34, the report provides a snapshot of current youth entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial ecosystems in 10 economies in the Asia-Pacific region. Particular attention is paid in the report to entrepreneurial ventures aimed at social and environmental goals.
“Findings suggest that Southeast Asia is the region with the fewest social entrepreneurs at just 3.8% of the working-age population. Young entrepreneurs face significant barriers in creating start-ups, as they lack mentors in business and management skills, as well as financial constraints, funding, and access to markets. In addition, young social entrepreneurs are less likely than commercial enterprises to sustain their businesses to the established phase.
“Creating more opportunities for youth to enter the labour market as entrepreneurs will result in future job creation, as 97% of all jobs are created by small and medium-sized enterprises, thereof 70% are sole entrepreneurs or micro businesses,” highlighted Ulrike Guelich, GEM Thailand team leader and co-author of the report.
The launch held on 11th July 2019 in Bangkok celebrates the upcoming World Youth Skills Day designated by the United Nations to raise awareness about the importance of investing in youth skills development in order to enhance their ability to make informed choices and empower them to adapt to changing labour markets.
The event also aimed to contextualize the findings of the report to Thailand’s unique perspective, through a meaningful presentation and dialogue among Thai experts and youth from different backgrounds. The speakers included representatives from UNDP, ChangeFusion, the National Innovation Agency, the National Children and Youth Council, and the youth-led social enterprise Hostbeehive.
Touching upon the topics of marginalization, innovation, youth policy, and social impact investment, the goal of the discussion was to explore solutions that can support young entrepreneurs to start and grow a business in Thailand.
“Youth are changemakers in society when they engage with challenges head-on through innovation, using their skills and energy to identify practical solutions” said Renaud Meyer, UNDP Thailand’s Resident Representative. “To support them, we must create an environment in which every one of them feels empowered and protected to strive to their fullest potential, and encourage youth as equal partner and agent of change.”
“Despite limited resources and support available for social entrepreneurs as suggested by the Social Impact Investment and Innovative Finance Landscape study released in 2018, we have seen numerous cases of young entrepreneurs in our social enterprise networks using their creativity and agility to come up with trailblazing social innovations. Nevertheless, more social investors and supporters as well as innovative investment tools would be needed to channel more resources to help the entrepreneurs thrive and create more impacts,” mentioned Haidy Leung, Business Development Manager at ChangeFusion.
During the panel discussion on youth economic empowerment and entrepreneurship development for SDGs in Thailand, Natdanai Trakansupakorn, founder of social enterprise ‘Hostbeehive’ and president of the Pgakenyaw Association for Sustainable Development (PASD) explained how “skills and knowledge about social entrepreneurship are a great tool to sustainably improve the livelihood of the indigenous people while still preserving our cultural identity. It could help the community to be able to generate new solutions, self-sustaining, self-improving, and scale out their practice to other communities. Consequently, new generations will be able to return home to work and, ultimately, pass on the culture, traditional knowledge and local wisdom to the generation to come.”
The GEM report is produced with support from Youth Co:Lab, a regional initiative co-led by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Citi Foundation that aims to establish a common agenda for countries in the Asia-Pacific region to empower and invest in youth, so that they can accelerate the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through leadership, social innovation and entrepreneurship.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognizes the important role of youth in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and calls for action against the challenges faced by young people that limits their economic, social and political inclusion. While millions of young people are not in education, training or employment, many young people are also left out of the decision-making process, further contributing to their marginalization. With the rise of globalization and technology disruption, paired with transforming societal challenges, builds the basis for encouraging the development of entrepreneurial skills among youth. This is because entrepreneurship can generate employment, helps solve societal issues as well as prepares individuals for challenges ahead.