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ILO warns of a 'Lost Generation'

In its report "Global Employment Trends for Youth 2012", launched ahead of the Informal European Summit on Growth on 23 May 2012, the International Labour Organization (ILO) says that the youth unemployment crisis continues.

Press release | 22 May 2012

Key points

  • In its report "Global Employment Trends for Youth 2012", launched ahead of the Informal European Summit on Growth which takes place on 23 May 2012, the International Labour Organization (ILO) says that the youth unemployment crisis continues.
  • The global youth unemployment rate for 2012 remains stuck at crisis peak levels: 12.7 per cent and is not expected to come down until at least 2016.
  • In Developed Economies and the European Union, the situation is even worse than suggested by the 18 per cent youth unemployment rate projected for this year, due to a massive drop-out of the labour force.
  • Many young people, discouraged by high unemployment rates, have given up their job search altogether, or decided to continue their stay in the education system. The economic crisis in the EU resulted in around 2 million youth dropping out from the labour market.
  • Of particular concern are young people who are neither in employment nor in education or training (‘NEET’). In the EU, the NEET rate increased 1.9 percentage points from its pre-crisis level of 10.9 per cent, and exceeded 15 per cent in Bulgaria, Italy, Ireland, Latvia, Romania and Spain.
  • The report formulates recommendations for youth employment policies:
  • - The youth employment crisis can be beaten only if both macroeconomic and growth policies support job creation, bring about a sustainable job recovery and invest in youth employment promotion. In this respect, austerity measures currently implemented in developed economies bode ill for a quick recovery of youth labour markets.
  • - Active labour market measures can be tailored for specific needs. It is important to address barriers to job growth as well as skills mismatches, adjust the focus of technical and vocational education to make it relevant to the requirements of companies and the labour market and to promote entrepreneurship.
  • - Decent employment is not only about generating any jobs, but also about improving the quality of jobs. Hence respecting labour standards and establishing adequate social protection for young people are important.
  • - Equally important is the establishment of partnerships among governments, employers’ organizations, trade unions and other organizations, in order to turn commitment to youth employment into reality.

GENEVA (ILO News) – The global youth unemployment rate for 2012 remains stuck at crisis peak levels and is not expected to come down until at least 2016, says the International Labour Organization (ILO) in its Global Employment Trends for Youth 2012 report (www.ilo.org/getyouth).

Projections show 12.7 per cent of the global youth labour force will be unemployed this year, unchanged from the peak of the crisis in 2009, and slightly up from last year’s 12.6 per cent, the report says.

The rate would even be higher if one takes into account those who - often discouraged by the lack of prospects - give up or postpone looking for a job. The adjusted rate would put the global youth unemployment rate at 13.6 per cent in 2011.

In terms of global numbers, there will be nearly 75 million unemployed youth aged 15 to 24 in 2012, an increase of nearly 4 million since 2007.

Further pressure on unemployment rates is expected when those extending their stay in the education system because of limited job prospects eventually enter the labour market.

“The youth unemployment crisis can be beaten but only if job creation for young people becomes a key priority in policy-making and private sector investment picks up significantly”, said Executive Director of the ILO Employment Sector, José Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs.

“This includes measures such as offering tax and other incentives to enterprises who hire young people, efforts to reduce the skills mismatch among youth, entrepreneurship programmes that integrate skills training, mentoring and access to capital, and the improvement of social protection for the young”, he added.

What about the regions?


Even though some regions have recovered from the economic crisis, or at least mitigated its impact, all face major youth employment challenges (see Youth unemployment rate estimates and projections by region).

  • In developed economies the situation is even worse than suggested by the 18 per cent youth unemployment rate projected for this year, due to a massive drop-out from the labour force.
  • In the CIS, Central and South-Eastern Europe region, the youth unemployment rate dropped slightly to 17.6 per cent in 2011. In contrast with the developed economies, youth participation rates appear to have increased due to the economic crisis in this region, which is likely to be partly poverty-driven.
  • In North Africa, youth unemployment rose by 5 percentage points following the Arab Spring, leaving 27.9 per cent of young people jobless in 2011. In the Middle East the rate was of 26.5 per cent.
  • In Latin America and the Caribbean the youth unemployment rate rose sharply during the economic crisis, from 13.7 per cent in 2008 to 15.6 in 2009. It decreased to 14.3 per cent in 2011, but no further improvement is expected in the medium term.
  • In Sub-Saharan Africa, the rate, at 11.5 per cent in 2011, has been fairly stable since 2005.
  • In South-East Asia and the Pacific it was 13.5 per cent in 2011, a 0.7 percentage point drop from the 2008 level.
  • Even in East Asia, perhaps the most economically dynamic region, the unemployment rate was 2.8 times higher for young people than for adults.

Other key findings include:

  • Globally and in most regions, the crisis had a stronger impact on youth unemployment rates among women than men. The difference was particularly strong in North Africa, while in developed economies, the impact was stronger for young men.
  • Many young people are trapped in low-productivity, temporary or other types of work that don’t pave the way for better jobs. In developed economies, youth are increasingly employed in temporary and part-time jobs while in the developing world many perform unpaid work supporting informal family businesses or farms.
  • Young people who are neither in employment nor in education have become a serious concern, particularly in developed economies. This group often constitutes at least 10 per cent of young people, and has grown rapidly in many developed countries.

The Global Employment Trends for Youth 2012 is published ahead of the May 23-25 global Youth Employment Forum (see: www.ilo.org/yef) that will bring together 100 young people involved in the promotion of decent work for youth. The issue also features prominently on the agenda for the ILO’s annual International Labour Conference in June.

Tags: youth employment

Unit responsible: ILO Office for the European Union and the Benelux countries

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