Global youth unemployment rate at all-time high, UN labour agency reports

Young job seekers

11 August 2010 – The global youth unemployment rate is at a record high and is expected to climb even higher as the year progresses, the United Nations International Labour Organization (ILO) announced today.

According to a new report, of the world’s 620 million economically active youth between the ages of 15 and 24, 81 million were out of work at the end of 2009, the highest number ever.

The youth unemployment rate climbed from 11.9 per cent in 2007 to 13 per cent in 2009.

Such trends, the report noted, will have “significant consequences for young people as upcoming cohorts of new entrants join the ranks of the already unemployed.”

ILO warned of a possible ‘lost generation’ of young people dropping out of the labour market, “having lost all hope of being able to work for a decent living.”

The agency forecasts that the youth unemployment will reach 13.1 per cent this year before declining to 12.7 per cent, cautioning that youth unemployment rates have been more sensitive to the global economic downturn than those of adults.

Further, it said, the recovery of the job market for young men and women will probably lag behind that of adults.

In developing economies, home to 90 per cent of the world’s young people, youth are more vulnerable to unemployment and poverty. In 2008, nearly 30 per cent of all of the world’s young workers were employed but remained mired in extreme poverty in households surviving on less than $1.25 per day.

“In developing economies, crisis pervades the daily life of the poor,” said ILO Director-General Juan Somavia.

“The effects of the economic and financial crisis threaten to exacerbate the pre-existing decent work deficits among youth,” he added. “The result is that the number of young people stuck in working poverty grows and the cycle of working poverty persists through at least another generation.”

The new report found that unemployment, underemployment and discouragement can have a negative impact on young people in the long-term, compromising their future work prospects.

The cost of idleness among youth, it said, is that societies lost their investment in the education of young people, while governments receive fewer contributions to social security systems and must boost spending on remedial services.

“Young people are the drivers of economic development,” Mr. Somavia stressed. “Forgoing this potential is an economic waste and can undermine social stability.”

The current recession, he said, provides an opportunity to reconsider how to tackle the serious obstacles young people face when they enter the labour market. “It is important to focus on comprehensive and integrated strategies that combine education and training policies with targeted employment policies for youth.”

The report was launched to coincide with the start of the UN International Year of Youth, under the theme “Dialogue and Mutual Understanding.” The Year seeks to further the ideals of peace, respect for human rights and solidarity across generations, cultures, religions and civilizations.


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