A Global Perspective: Youth Employment

Today the economy has a huge impact on young people growing up. Across the globe, the economic crisis has had a dramatic impact on the challenges facing young people seeking jobs. Between 2008 and 2009, the youth unemployment rate has seen the largest annual increase on record, reversing the pre-crisis trend of declining youth unemployment rates since 2002 and rising to 13 per cent in 2009.

In times of crisis especially the youth faces unemployment which has long term negative effects on their development and creates marginalization and devastation. In 2009, about 81million young people were unemployed, the most ever. Youth unemployment rate rose from 11.9 percent to 13.0 percent between 2007 and 2009, an increase of 7.8 million. In 2008, an estimated 152 million young workers –or nearly 25 percent of the world’s working poor– were living with their families on less than US$1.25 per person per day.

The life of young people is full of fear about their future. Will I be able to get a job, to make a living, to support my family? These questions jeopardize in many ways social progress creating egoism, destructive competition and disinterest in the common welfare.

Young women have more difficulty than young men in finding work. The female youth unemployment rate in 2009 stood at 13.2 per cent compared to the male rate of 12.9 per cent.

Unemployment rates, however, reflect only the tip of the iceberg. Young people are prone to work longer hours under informal, intermittent and insecure work arrangements characterized by low productivity and earnings and reduced social protection. Young workers are more exposed to poverty than other age groups.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) has long been active on youth employment, through its normative action, its technical assistance work and the promotion of strategic alliances across the UN System. Examples of alliances on youth employment include that with FAO on the promotion decent employment for youth living in rural areas and UNESCO on the promotion of access to quality technical and vocational education and training.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to the youth employment challenge. Policy responses depend on national circumstances. Policy options should be part of an integrated framework that promotes economic development and employment growth. Furthermore, young people have different experiences and their needs depend on individual characteristics. This calls for combining policies for employment expansion with targeted programmes that overcome the specific labour market disadvantages faced by many young people.

A good education is the key to improvement. Policies and national programmes that provide incentives to enterprises to hire young people, promote youth entrepreneurship, and facilitate access to finance and to other targeted active labour market measures can also help countries to improve decent work prospects of its young population. The development of national action plans on youth employment that are focused on these elements can guide countries to translate national commitment into action.

It is not acceptable that the economy dictates young people´s lives. Every state should take actions to ensure that every young man and woman is able to choose their profession reflecting their interests and potential.