The new millennium has witnessed the emergence of unprecedented numbers of young people globally. Though the global ‘youth bulge’ is gradually passing, the sheer number of young people still presents several challenges and opportunities in developing countries. Youth are often framed as a promise of social innovation, productive labour force, generational renewal, cultural creativity, and, as such, a key source of social change. Youth do help to create better functioning societies, as young people assume positions in various fields, including politics, economics and cultural life. How are youth able to seek their own life goals and, simultaneously, contribute to social reproduction and development?

Following the rapid social change and political turbulence in the Middle East and North Africa in the 2010s, the longstanding challenges — such as social polarization, demobilization and the lack of decent jobs — affecting youth lives have not disappeared. Youth transitions have become increasingly complex and multidimensional also globally, and the social adulthood may no longer be considered a self-evident goal; rather, the characteristics that are traditionally associated with youth, such as flexibility, mobility and dynamism, are in greater demand, for instance, in the labour market.

The What works-project explores the dynamics of transitions to adulthood from the perspective of young people in the region. It examines young people’s agency and livelihood strategies while transitioning from education to the labour markets in the late 2010s and the early 2020s, and addresses three areas of research: youth initiatives of social innovation and entrepreneurship, young people’s job seeking strategies in precarious settings, and their people’s aspirations to migrate abroad for the purposes of education and employment. The project also examines the young asylum seekers’ and refugees’ employment paths in Finland.


The project is funded by DEVELOP Programme for Development Research (2018-2022) of the Academy of Finland.

Partners and co-operators

The main project partners are the Research Center of the Institut des Hautes Études de Management (HEM), Morocco, and the Center of Arab Women for Training and Research (CAWTAR), Tunisia. Please see the Annual report by HEM on their involvement in the project.