“Investing today in the employment of young people means investing in the present and future of our societies”.
Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General
The economic crisis brought about a swift reversal of the gradual declining trend in global youth unemployment rates. The rapid increase in youth unemployment after 2007 led to youth’s discouragement and withdrawal in significant numbers from the labour force. It is estimated that nearly 6.4 million youth worldwide moved into inactivity in response to the crisis while many others continue to work yet live in poverty.
The youth employment crisis has become a stubbornly persistent reality in all regions and in nearly every country. Of the nearly 200 million unemployed people today, about 37 per cent – more than 70 million – are between the ages of 15 and 24.This translates into a global youth unemployment rate that has settled at 13.0 per cent during the period 2012 to 2014. While it is expected to remain relatively constant in the near future, this rate is still well above its pre-crisis level of 11.7 per cent.
According to the 2015 Global Employment Trends for Youth report of the International Labour Organization (see the box on the right), youth remain overrepresented among the unemployed and shaken by the changing patterns in the labour market. Today, two out of every five young persons of working age are either unemployed or working jobs that don’t pay enough to escape poverty.
The challenge is not trivial since the “demographic dividend” can become a source of instability if young people around the world continue to face disappointing prospects in their job search. Unemployment and underemployment depreciate human capital and have significant negative effects on health, happiness, crime levels and socio-political stability. Failure to generate sufficient decent jobs for youth and to address their vulnerabilities in the labour market can result in long-lasting “scarring” effects throughout an individual’s life.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has placed “achieving full and productive employment and decent work for all” squarely at the centre of the new development vision, with youth explicitly identified as a key target group. Addressing the youth employment challenge therefore ranks high among international and local development priorities. Understanding what works to improve youth labour market outcomes is therefore of paramount importance to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.