|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference on Youth Unemployment
Representatives from government, the business sector and civil society were meeting at United Nations headquarters to examine how each sector could collaborate in partnership to address youth unemployment, correspondents were told at a Headquarters press conference today.
The partnership event, being held under the theme “partnerships for more and better jobs for young people”, is preparatory to the 2012 Economic and Social Council Annual Ministerial Review, to be held in early July in New York. Participants at the press conference included José Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs, Executive Director of the Employment Sector for the International Labour Organization (ILO), Ronald Bruder, Founder and Chair of Education for Employment, a non-profit, non-governmental organization committed to creating employment opportunities for youth in the Middle East and North Africa; and Kevin Cassidy of ILO.
Speaking when he introduced the two speakers, Mr. Cassidy told reporters ILO had recently released a report on global employment trends that indicated currently 200 million people were unemployed worldwide. “We are looking at a jobs crisis over the next ten years where another 400 million decent jobs would need to be created for the new entrants to the labour market,” he said. One of the specific concerns was on youth employment, which he said was at a staggering 12.7 per cent unemployment rate worldwide, and that did not reflect some of the young workers that had actually dropped out of the labour market altogether.
Mr. Salazar explained that the ILO had been working for many years on youth employment issues, including the major 2005 conference that brought together Governments, employers and workers to discuss the different approaches to the issue of youth employment. That ILO programme had increasingly grown and had more than $120 million in projects around the world in many countries today. It was a programme that was deeply rooted in knowledge sharing and learning, as well as good practices to tackle the issue of the youth employment crisis.
He said with last year’s events pertaining to the Arab Spring and the general worldwide economic crisis, the numbers had reached “staggering” proportions and were worrisome. “And as we know, those that are not studying, that are not working, are easy prey for risk behaviours, from drug use to violence, to joining gangs, to other anti-social behaviour. So it is a tragedy for them, for their families; it is a problem for the communities, for the countries.” That was why Governments, the private sector and everybody had a stake in addressing the youth employment issue.
To that end, ILO was preparing for the its June meeting in Geneva with more than 50 national consultations with youth organizations in some 50 countries to take place in March and April in readiness for a major youth employment forum in Geneva at the end of May. That meeting was expected to draw participants from ILO’s 183 member States together with delegations from employers and workers — more than 5,000 people.
Mr. Bruder, Founder and Chair of Education for Employment, said about a decade ago, he chose to focus his organization’s activities specifically on the Middle East, after he saw that the youth there were not having the opportunities that he had had growing up in the United States. In the Middle East, it was key that the youth there had jobs, he said. “Without them having employment, I think the Arab spring has a much less chance of turning into an Arab summer,” he declared.
Mr. Cassidy said, further, that there were already a number initiatives going on to address the jobs crisis for youth, explaining that the Group of Twenty (G-20) leaders that met in Cannes in November 2011 to address the growing global discontent had focused on developing sustainable and inclusive growth, decent work and social protection for all. They had also established a task force on employment, where ILO was actively engaged.
In response to correspondents’ questions, both Mr. Salazar and Mr. Bruder said there were actually 900 million people worldwide living under $2 a day, most of whom were in what was termed as “under employment” – very low income, a lot of them working in the so-called informal economies of many developing countries, poor working conditions, often not in compliance with most of the internationally-accepted conventions. To another question, Mr. Bruder said it was critical for youth in the Middle East to find their way into the labour market, to provide stability for their countries. He cited the specific example of Egypt, where, when the situation worsened, the tourism industry died, and had remained dead to date. That collapse of the tourism industry resulted in an immediate loss of some 600,000 jobs. When something like that happened, it was the youth that bore the brunt of the impact more radically and more quickly than any other segment, he said.
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