In both developed and developing countries, youth unemployment and underemployment rates have reached alarming levels. According to the latest figures from the International Labour Organization, an unprecedented 81 million young people were unemployed and many more are underemployed and working in jobs of poor quality. ECOSOC held a youth forum on 4 May at the UN Headquarters.
“Young people are the future of our societies. As such, they should also be part of solutions,” the Vice President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Luis Alfonso de Alba, told participants at the first Youth ECOSOC Forum. “Creating a sustainable future means empowering youth with better job opportunities – and it means giving young people a voice.”
The forum, whose theme is “Empowering Youth with Better Job Opportunities,” brought together young delegates and entrepreneurs, students and representatives of youth non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Participants took part in two interactive dialogues, the first one focusing on education and training, and the second on the creation of green jobs and the conditions needed to create them.
In her address to participants, Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro stressed that youth are mobilizing like never before and that their ideas can help countries achieve their sustainable development objectives.
“Young people can drive the global push for green growth. As entrepreneurs, consumers and leaders, they can adopt new lifestyles that respect our planet. They can promote trends that encourage sustainable development,” she said, adding that youth participation is particularly important in events such as the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) next month in Brazil.
Youth unemployment has soared in both affluent and poor countries since the global financial crisis began in 2008, with the largest annual increase on record reported in 2009. At one point, nearly 76 million people aged between 15 and 24 years of age were unemployed worldwide.
Currently, young people are three times as likely as adults to be unemployed. In Europe nearly one in four young people are out of a job, and in North Africa and the Middle East youth unemployment is almost 30 per cent, the highest worldwide.
Mr. de Alba highlighted that in addition to a high rate of unemployment, it is important to look at underemployment and vulnerable employment, as many young people are on precarious short-term contracts, or trapped in low-skill and poorly paid jobs.
“Labour policies and institutions may not create any incentives to hire young people, and, as many of you know, policies are not yet in place in many countries to equip young people with the skills demanded by today’s labour market,” he said.
The Secretary-General for Rio+20, Sha Zukang, underlined that job creation is a top priority for action for the conference, as ensuring employment for youth goes hand in hand with sustainable development.
“Unemployment affects both current well-being and future prospects, and these ramifications can trickle down to the next generation,” said Mr. Sha, who is also UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs.
Training youth for a green economy
“There is a growing convergence of views on the importance of creating green jobs. By training our youth in the skills needed to transition to a green economy, we can address both unemployment and sustainable development issues. This is the approach that will secure the future for the youth of today and generations to come,” he added.
In July 2012, Member States, policymakers, civil society organizations, and representatives of academia and the private sector will meet in New York during the high-level segment of the substantive session of the Economic and Social Council to address the challenge of increasing productive capacity and promoting employment and decent work. This requires a comprehensive, inter-generational, cross-cultural, and cross-sectoral approach that is impossible without the participation of Governments, youth, and all segments of society.
The 4 May Forum has been organized as a contribution to the Economic and Social Council high-level segment by the United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI) in the Department of Public Information and the Office for Economic and Social Council Support and Coordination (OESC) in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs.
The outcome of the meeting will be shared with Member States at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development-Rio+20, to take place in Brazil, in June 2012, and also during the Economic and Social Council high-level session in July 2012.
Source: UN News