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Across the globe, the economic crisis has had a dramatic impact on the challenges facing young people seeking jobs. Between 2008 and 2009, the youth unemployment rate has seen the largest annual increase on record, reversing the pre-crisis trend of declining youth unemployment rates since 2002 and rising to 13 per cent in 2009.

Unemployment rates, however, reflect only the tip of the iceberg. Young people are prone to work longer hours under informal, intermittent and insecure work arrangements. These are characterized by low productivity and earnings and reduced social protection.

Although vital to the prosperity of society, youth encounter disproportionate difficulties finding and maintaining decent jobs. In 2008, an estimated 152 million young workers were living with their families on less than $1.25 a day, amounting to more than 28 per cent of all young workers in the world.

The inability to find stable employment creates a sense of frustration and idleness among young people and poses significant challenges in terms of lost output and social costs. It also hampers the capacity of companies and countries to innovate and develop competitive advantages. Furthermore, a poor employment record in the early stages of a young person’s career can harm job prospects for life.

"How can you think about the future if you do not have money to maintain your family?" asks 18 year-old Laura. “Some things should be available for everyone. If the poor had all their needs covered, they would be able to care about their education and the future… But right now, none of this is possible without a job” she says, walking in her hometown of Rosario, Argentina.

One day she met a young man on the street, in his early twenties, and strong, but he only had the use of one leg, and he was begging for spare change. The young man told Laura that he used to work in the local port, but had lost his job after an accident. He had not been able to find work for more than three years.

Laura was surprised to learn that he supported his younger brothers on what he earned from begging because his father was also unemployed. His situation made her think hard about the importance of a steady job and the problems so many people have in finding work.

“How can the disabled survive?” she wondered. “How do they live if no one is willing to hire them?”

Some of the young persons enrolled at the Legacy, an international summer community for youths 9-18, near Bedford.

Some of the young persons enrolled at the Legacy, an international summer community for youths 9-18, near Bedford.

Laura believes that everyone deserves a good life and good work. She has participated in an organization for disabled people and their families called AMUFADI. It is no coincidence, she says, that many of those with disabilities often suffer from poverty too. She is dedicated to finding a solution to the problem of labour discrimination against disabled people.

The young man has not been on the street for some time now, and Laura can only hope this means he has found a better life, but she knows that people have to change the way they think before real change can happen. "How can this situation be changed," she asks, "if we aren't doing anything?"

A generation without hope for decent employment can affect families, the economy and society at large.