Youth job creation critical for our future
According to the latest International Labour Organization (ILO) data, about half of the world’s estimated 199 million unemployed people in 2010—or nearly 96 million—are aged between 15 and 24. In many economies, young people are more than three times as likely as adults to be out of work. Today, both industrialized and developing countries are failing to increase employment opportunities for young people.
“Creating jobs for youth is not enough. Across the planet, youth are not only finding it difficult if not impossible to find jobs, but also they cannot find decent jobs…We are facing not only an economic challenge, but a security threat of monumental proportions.”
- Juan Somavia – ILO Director-General
Why should we care to hire youth now?
Young people bring vibrancy, skills and creativity to economies that no one can afford to throw away. Around the world, young women and men are making important contributions as productive workers, entrepreneurs, consumers, even as agents of positive change.
Our economies are directly dependent on what our young people do today.
Yet the lack of sufficient or sustainable decent work makes young people—and the societies they live in—extremely vulnerable. In industrialized countries such as Canada, the challenge our governments and chief executives face is finding jobs for millions of youth who are entering the labour market each year.
To compound the problem, youth are often at the vortex of a vicious cycle of poverty, inadequate education and training, and poor jobs.
This deadly combination of circumstances creates an endless trail of poverty linking one generation to future generations. This “poverty trail”, from youth to adulthood, is bristling with danger for today’s societies.
The costs and the prospects are breathtaking for individuals as well as economies. Reduced self-esteem, discouragement and diminished levels of wellbeing can lead to anti-social behaviour, violence and juvenile delinquency that put democracies at risk. Instead of jailing youth offenders with longer and severe terms for this type of behaviour and leave it at that, governments and business leaders must examine alternate methods of eliminating this youth angst.
A sharp illustration of failing policies is the so-called war on drugs, acknowledged by experts to be an accomplished failure. A federal report by the U.S. Center on Substance Abuse Prevention stated “alternative programming appears to be most effective among those youth at greatest risk for substance abuse and related problems.” According to the report, alternatives are defined as, “those that provide targeted populations with activities that are free of alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs.” Decent, well-paying jobs are cited as an example program.
The National Coalition for Effective Drug Policies in Washington, D.C. reports that drug-related incarcerations consistently reach new records yet drug problems worsen and adolescent drug abuse is increasing. It has strongly recommended that governments need to accept that the law enforcement paradigm will never work and shift to treating drug abuse as a health problem with social and economic implications.
Access to productive and decent work is the best way young people can realize their aspirations, improve their living conditions and actively participate in society. Decent work for young people provides them with significant benefits in terms of increased wealth, a commitment to democracy, security and political stability. It strengthens economies. And it creates a cadre of young consumers—savers and taxpayers who fuel the fire, cutting edge and ingenuity that attract domestic and foreign investment.
Productive and motivated youth can be the engineers of an equitable society that will create and strengthen links across generations. And strong, productive youth employment will generate profitable returns on investment to society by reducing costs related to social problems, such as drug abuse and crime.
In June 2010, a major ILO conference with 178 countries participating agreed that macro-economic policies and targeted measures are more successful when all the stakeholders concerned help to design and implement initiatives that include education and training, labour market services, support for gaining work experience and entrepreneurship development.