Since the current global crisis in 2008, economic growth has been slowing down in major industrial countries, forcing many enterprises to retrench or even shut down. The unemployment rate has been on the rise. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO) 160 million people in the world today are unemployed, 44% of those without work are young people.
Young people are the hardest hit. In 2011, nearly 75 million youth aged 15-24 were unemployed worldwide. For growing numbers of employed young people, employment is temporary and without protection and may not provide an income sufficient to cover basic necessities.
It is not enough to feel sorry or worry over this unhappy trend. Immediate action is required to ward off the dire consequences: poverty, social exclusion, marginalization and violence. Just to mention a few.
The youth unemployment has been appropriately described as a ‘global bomb’. For the affected societies, unemployment means social unrest, increase in the crime rate, social violence and political instability. It is to be recalled that the Arab Spring uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Syria were sparked by angry young people demanding bread, freedom and social justice. It is hard to predict the consequences of these uprisings . The train has just left the station and nobody knows where it is heading or when or where it will stop!
It is true that the intensity of the crisis varies from one country to another, but there will certainly be few exceptions.
Psychologically , youth unemployment is a huge problem. Uncertainty about the future has instilled a sense of fear and despair among young people and dashed the hopes of many families. The long-term psychological scarring effects of the crisis are likely to cast a dark shadow on the future. Pessimists say that a whole generation might be lost.
The average jobless youth rate within the Europe has reached 21% . Two states had the highest youth unemployment rate towards the end of 2011, namely Spain (49.6%) and Greece (46.6%). The number of unemployed youth in the Eurozone at present exceeds 17 million. The European Commission has sounded the alarm and declared youth unemployment a top priority. It has urged EU member states to invest more effectively in the young generation against the background of demographic ageing and increased world competition. The EU Commission has drawn up a strategy and put in place several action plans to help member countries with the highest youth unemployment rates. The strategy focuses on education, training, entrepreneurship initiatives aimed at young people, and increasing funding for small and medium enterprises which provide most of the jobs .The EU Social Fund has been instructed to make use of its unused funds to combat youth unemployment.
Unfortunately , jobless rates are expected to get even worse globally over the next five years because of the spill- over effect of the Eurozone crisis. The global youth unemployment rate will probably reach 12.9% by 2017. In North Africa and the Middle East , the rates are the highest in the world and will remain above 25% . They might even rise further in parts of this region, and in Sub-Saharan Africa , the jobless rate will be close to 12% , according to an ILO paper titled ‘ Global Employment Outlook: Bleak Labour Market Prospects for Youth ‘ published in September 2012.
The stakes are high. Youth are the future. Urgent measures should be taken to stimulate long-term economic growth and increase demand for labour. Education and training aimed at meeting the actual labour market needs are essential to creating better job opportunities for young people. In the meantime, young entrepreneurs should be encouraged and assisted by all means to start up their own projects.
Under the present circumstances, there is a real risk that ‘the best and brightest’ in the Third World will be tempted to seek a better life and more rewarding jobs outside their own countries , thus deepening the brain drain crisis and the gap between rich and poor countries . There is a reverse trend, too. Young men from developed countries are looking for work opportunities in former colonies and less affluent societies .
Youth unemployment is a universal challenge. The future depends on how successfully we tackle it.
(For young people, Jobs provide a source not only of income, but also of dignity and self-respect.
( World Youth Report 2003).