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ILO warns on global youth unemployment

The International Labour Organization (ILO) on Wednesday warned of a “scarred” generation of young workers facing a dangerous mix of high unemployment, increased inactivity and precarious work in developed countries, as well as persistently high working poverty in the developing world.  

ILO gave the warning in its “Global Employment Trends for Youth: 2011 Update”, which was released in Geneva, Switzerland.

In a statement on the report, it stated that, “the bad luck of the generation entering the labour market in the years of the Great Recession brings not only current discomfort from unemployment, under-employment and the stress of social hazards associated with joblessness and prolonged inactivity, but also possible longer term consequences in terms of lower future wages and distrust of the political and economic system”.

It quoted the report as noting that, “this collective frustration among youth has been a contributing factor to protest movements around the world this year, as it becomes increasingly difficult for young people to find anything other than part-time and temporary work”.

The report also said that, “in the Middle East and North Africa, for example, over the past 20 years, approximately one in four youth have been unemployed despite progress made in the education of girls and boys”.  

It showed that, “the absolute number of unemployed youth fell slightly since its peak in 2009 (from 75.8 million to 75.1 million in late 2010, a rate of 12.7 per cent) and is expected to decline to 74.6 million in 2011, or 12.6 per cent”.

However, the report attributed this more to youth withdrawing from the labour market, rather than finding jobs.

“This is especially true in the Developed Economies and the European Union region, where the youth unemployment rate (which had risen from 9 per cent in 2007 to 27.5 per cent in 2010) could have been more than 19.3 percentage points higher if those who were either `hiding out’ in the education system, or waiting at home for prospects to improve, were included in the analysis.

“On the other hand, young people in low-income economies are trapped in a vicious cycle of working poverty,” it stated.

It said that, “if youth unemployment were examined alone, one might wrongly guess that young people in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa are doing well compared to the developed economies, when in fact the high employment-to-population ratios of youth in the poorest regions mean the poor have no choice but work”.

“There are by far more young people around the world that are stuck in circumstances of working poverty than are without work or looking for work”, the report added.

The Executive Director of the ILO Employment Sector, Jose Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs,
said: “These new statistics reflect the frustration and anger that millions of youth around the world are feeling”.

He stated that, “governments are struggling to find innovative solutions through labour market interventions such as addressing skills mismatches, job search support, entrepreneurship training, subsidies to hiring, among other things”.

He noted that, “these measures can make a difference, but ultimately more jobs must come from measures beyond the labour market that aim to remove obstacles to growth recovery such as accelerating the repair of the financial system, bank restructuring and recapitalization to re-launch credit to small and medium sized enterprises, and real progress in global demand rebalancing”.

Other main findings in the report said between 2008 and 2009, the number of unemployed youth increased by an unprecedented 4.5 million worldwide.

It also said that, “this remarkable increase is better visualized when compared to the average increase of the pre-crisis period (1997-2007) of less than 100,000 persons per year”.

“The youth labour force expanded by far less during the crisis than would be expected: across 56 countries with available information, there were 2.6 million fewer youth in the labour market in 2010 than expected based on longer-term (pre-crisis) trends.

“Many of the 2.6 million are likely to be discouraged youth waiting for times to improve. They are likely to re-enter the labour force as unemployed, which means that current official youth unemployment rates are likely to understate the full extent of the problem in developed economies,” it concluded.

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