This paper uses a mixed methods approach to identify factors that challenge and enable young adults’ inclusion in the world of work in Niger, through a gender-streamlined analysis of different poverty trajectories of livelihoods and how these are affected by training, education and migration. We find a high prevalence of self-employment activities in rural and urban contexts in the Tahoua and Zinder regions, characterised by low security of income flows, gendered professions and asset-dependent pathways to escape poverty. Among the barriers to labour inclusion, high education fees drastically reduce job prospects, particularly for the poorest. Those accessing schooling attest to the lack of stable offers or civil service contracts, instead engaging in informal service provision. The dearth of savings and the unaffordability of productive assets (land, vehicles) hinder the ability to start an investment. Internal and international migration is seen as a method of occupational upgrading within predominantly non-poor trajectories by young people who can save and invest capital upon return, but it is a capital-intensive and risky investment that may be unaffordable for the poorest. Changing norms influence youth labour trajectories. Divorce and remarriage rates are higher for young women and efforts to obtain training require careful renegotiations of gender and generational norms, including working in innovative ways within local social contexts.
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