UN’s global report on youth highlights rising concerns over lack of job prospects

Rampant unemployment in Somaliland has prompted thousands of young people to leave the territory every month. Photo: IRIN/Mohamed Amin Jibril

6 February 2012 – A lack of job opportunities, inadequate education, vulnerable working conditions and insufficient government investment are some of the main concerns of young people around the world, according to a United Nations report on youth published today.

The latest World Youth Report, released by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), for the first time included inputs from young people – with many participating in an online discussion on youth employment.

For almost one month, young people from the ages of 15 to 30 took part in an online consultation organized by DESA to share their views, experiences and recommendations on preparing for, entering and remaining active in the working force. Their contributions are the main subject of the report.

A main concern in the discussions was that current education systems are not preparing young people adequately to compete in the job market.

“Young people questioned the quality of education they and their peers receive: whether or not it is relevant to available jobs, how their knowledge and skills will serve them in the long-term, and the extent to which decision-makers are committed to needed investment in the potential of young people,” the report said.

Youth were especially worried that the education they received was overly theoretical, leaving them to acquire practical skills on their own. “Today it should be easier to find a job because our generation is the most educated but there is an inadequacy between the training offered and the needs of the labour market,” said Amadou, a Senegalese 24-year-old who participated.

Many also expressed concern about their governments not doing enough to help them overcome unemployment, stressing that without a lack of opportunities, they cannot apply their skills. “What is the use of education if we are not given a chance to put our knowledge and skills into work?” asked Mridula, a 16-year old from India.

Since the start of the global economic crisis, young people have faced particularly hard conditions when trying to transition from schools to the labour market. In the aftermath of the economic crisis in 2009, global youth unemployment rate saw its largest annual increase on record, resulting in some 75.8 million unemployed youth. Joblessness rates among youth are also significantly higher than adult ones. In 2010, for example, the youth unemployment rate was 12.6 per cent, compared to 4.8 per cent for adults.

“Today we have the largest generation of young people the world has ever known,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in the report’s introduction. “They are demanding their rights and a greater voice in economic and political life. We need to pull the UN system together like never before to support a new social contract of job-rich economic growth. Let us start with young people.”

The report also reveals that even after finding work young people face unstable conditions, as they are often the last to be hired and the first to be dismissed. It also noted that young women face greater challenges than their male counterparts when accessing jobs, with many having to work part time or in lower-paid occupations.

Despite the many obstacles they described, young people were hopeful and optimistic that they would be able to not only find jobs, but also make significant contributions to their society. The report shows that they are placing more and more importance in creating their own opportunities and becoming entrepreneurs rather than being employed by large companies.

The report also showed that youth are looking to innovate in areas that are growing such as green technologies and communications.

“Young people are, in general, more conscious of global issues like climate change and social equity. I think that promotion of green economies among youth is a winning solution,” said Michael, a 23-year-old who is a member of the World Esperanto Youth Organization.

Some 1,100 contributions, as well as photos and videos, were received from young people around the world during the four-week consultation period. The discussions were conducted mainly in the English language, but participants were also invited to post comments in the French and Spanish languages. Many posts were translated on a volunteer basis, and Google Translate was also made available on the platform.

DESA noted that extensive outreach efforts were made to reach as many young people as possible, paying attention to geographic, age, gender and other considerations. However, it noted that the report only reflects the opinions of youth who have access to the Internet, stressing the need to widen consultations to reach those without online access.


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