Supporting Entrepreneurship and Employment for Women and Youth (SEEWAY)

Project Background

Timor-Leste has 30% of the population living below the national poverty line and 46% living in multidimensional deprivation and poverty. 70% of Timor-Leste’s population live in rural areas, most of whom (64.2%) are dependent on subsistence agriculture – poverty among rural population is particularly high. According to UNFPA, 78% of the people between the age of 15 to 64 were not employed (or economically active), of which around 36% were youth aged 15 to 24 years. Unemployment among youth is notable – Timor-Leste is the country with 74% of population under 35 (Census 2015), and 20.3% of the youth population aged 15-24 (Labour Market Outlook 2018) is not engaged in employment, education, or training (NEET). The economic prospects for 2020 have been negatively impacted by the lack of state budget for 2020 due to political uncertainty, public spending constrained for most of the year due to duodecimal spending regime in place, and global COVID-19 outbreak. The World Bank has estimated a GDP contraction of 6.8% in 2020 for Timor-Leste (World Bank, October 2020). COVID-19-related factors have negatively impacted small farmers, people living in remote areas, urban settlements with limited infrastructure, and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), and amplified the challenges caused by climate change, inadequate social safety net and poor governance.  According to the UN joint Socio-Economic Impact Assessment (SEIA 2020) of COVID-19, income loss was recorded for most households and MSMEs, for the youth, elderly people, vulnerable and the poor. The percentage of households without any form of income has increased considerably in just a few months. More than half (56.6%) of all households have had to survive without revenue as of July 2020, compared to 18.3 percent before the state of emergency and 59% of people who had an income prior to the crisis, had lost it during the crisis. Number of vulnerable households without an income increased four times. At least 1 in every 4 households had someone in their household who lost their job because of restrictions placed to control the spread of COVID-19. Among the survey areas, youth unemployment was extremely high with only 12.3% at work, 83% of persons with disability were economically inactive, and 17.4% women (compared to 2.3% men) were economically inactive because of household work and providing care to others. Moreover, 34% of women (compared to 20% of men) indicated that they spent more time on household chores including increased childcare responsibilities. Many households, especially those with limited financial resources, are not able to cope with these losses. Another key finding of SEIA is that the non-vulnerable households benefited the most from the available support services - cash transfer, food, voucher—and the vulnerable households received the least amount of benefits due to limited social networks and access to information. Thus, one of the key recommendations of SEIA is to have longer-term and targeted assistance to the vulnerable groups, including those living in an institutional setting such as orphanages and shelters.


Impact of COVID-19 on MSMEs has been destructive in the last few months. According to the SEIA, 81 % of MSMEs reported a loss of income during the lockdown. Due to drops in income, some businesses, 26%, also reported difficulty in paying staff wages and tried to cope by reducing staff hours or suspending their contracts temporarily. Employers expressed great concern over their inability to support their regular employees. Women faced hardships more often than men - more women were laid off (61%, compared to 39% of men), both as a set of all those dismissed, and as a proportion of the women employed before the pandemic (13% of women and 3% of men lost their jobs by this measure).  Given this context in Timor-Leste, a long-term investment in human capital is needed to produce skilled human resources to meet the labour market demand—something that is beyond the scope of this proposal. However, in the short-term, many initiatives can be taken to prepare youth with the required soft skills, have greater access to the right information, enhance their readiness for the work world through internships/mentorships and meet the labour market demand. At the same time, more efforts are needed to develop MSMEs to increase employment and income opportunities particularly for women, people with disability, unemployed youth, poor and vulnerable communities. Also, a follow-up socio-economic impact assessment will be useful to evaluate the situation in 2021 that can inform the policy decisions and budgets.


Expected Outputs

•       Economic policies and programmes geared towards inclusive, sustainable and equitable growth and decent jobs.

•       Young men and women have improved access to sustainable economic opportunities.

Expected Impacts

•       Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises can recover from the impacts of COVID-19

•       Women, people with disability, poor, and unemployed youth have additional income and employment.

•       Follow up COVID-19 Socio-Economic Impact Assessment


Main partners

•       Government of Timor-Leste

•       Private sectors

•       Youth Groups and Potential individuals that’s could become entrepreneurs. 

•       CBO’s

•       People with disability Organization

•       Women entrepreurship association


Contact information

Project address - UNDP Timor-Leste

UN House, Caicoli Street (Obrigado Barracks) P.O. Box No. 008, Dili, Timor-Leste

Contact person

Francelino Guterres – Project Manager  Email: Phone: +670, 78499031/78366909





Project start date:

January 2021

Estimated end date:

June 2022

Focus area:

  • eradicate poverty in all its forms and dimensions
  • Project office:

    UNDP in Timor-Leste

    Implementing partner:

    United Nations Development Programme

    Full project information  

    Funding Support by

    Donor name

  • United Nations Development Pro
  • Government Of Timor'leste
  • Amount contributed


    Delivery in previous fiscal year

    2021 $307,899

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