Like many countries in the Middle East, Iran is currently facing a youth crisis wherein half of the population is between the ages of 15-24 and more than 30 percent are unemployed. Hidden within this figure are those young people who comprise the one in seven Iranians living under 1 USD/day. We find that there’s a widespread belief within the country that one of the main reasons for these young people’s low standing on the socio-economic ladder is that their skills and education are not meeting the demands of jobs in the Iranian economy (skills mismatch). Therefore, development projects often focus on improving technical skills (for example, computer training) in the hopes that these initiatives will provide greater access to the labor market and thus, greater economic security.
However, despite these advances, the unemployment dilemma still exists and is stronger than ever before. I think that while providing skills training is worthwhile for its own sake, there needs to be a more bottom-up approach to development that takes into account the lived experiences of young people. Development initiatives in all countries tend to be top-down since most programs are often decided without the input of those who will be most affected by its results. Nevertheless, without clear insight into the role that young people play within their families and their communities it is difficult, if not impossible, to create sustainable practices that really speak to the realities of these youths’ life conditions. But how can this insight come about? And how can the voices of young people be incorporated into the decision-making process?