South and Southeast Asia are home to a combined 441 million youths, equivalent to almost 37 percent of the world’s population aged 15-24 years (UNDESA, 2015). Although most of the countries in these regions are currently experiencing strong economic growth, over 50 percent of working-age people are engaged in vulnerable low-paid employment and youth unemployment remains high with an increasing number of young people reaching the working age (ILO, 2016). One way to generate decent work and inclusive growth is by empowering young people to innovate and respond to the needs of society - increasing youth entrepreneurship and social enterprise. Difficulties persist, however, as besides legal and regulatory challenges, lack of access to finance is a major obstacle to youth entrepreneurship. Fulfilling the financial needs of young people can empower them as entrepreneurs or to serve as innovators, leading to increased employment, income and economic growth.
This working paper focuses on youth entrepreneurship and financial inclusion in South Asia and Southeast Asia, with a focus on the frontier economies of Cambodia, Lao PDR and Myanmar (CLM).