Long term youth unemployment causes generation's distrust

A new ILO report says the long-term impact of the youth employment crisis could be felt for decades, creating a generation at risk of suffering decent work deficits throughout their lives and causing distrust in the socio-economic and political systems.

Press release | 08 May 2013
Key findings

  • 73.4 million young people worldwide – 12.6 % – are expected to be out of work in 2013, an increase of 3.5 million between 2007 and 2013
  • global youth unemployment rate increased again: 12.7 per cent in 2009, 12.3 per cent in 2011, 12.4 per cent in 2012, 12.6 per cent in 2013, and expected to be 12.8 in 2018
Advanced economies (including EU):
  • youth unemployment rate in advanced economies: 18.1 per cent in 2012 (same rate as in 2010). Projected to remain above 17 per cent until 2015
  • between 2008 and 2012, unemployed young people increased by more than 2 million in advanced economies (increase of 25 per cent)
  • in advanced economies, long term youth unemployment has scarring effect on current generation of youth, causing distrust in the socio-economic and political systems
  • youth employment crisis in advanced economies reflected in longer job search periods and lower job quality
Report calls for:
  • Fostering pro-employment growth and decent job creation while ensuring financial and fiscal sustainability
  • Comprehensive measures targeting disadvantaged young people in advanced economies

BRUSSELS (ILO News) – Despite some regional differences, the global youth unemployment rate continues to rise and is projected to reach 12.8 per cent by 2018 – wiping out the gains made at the start of the economic recovery.

Behind this worsening figure is an even more worrying picture, revealing persistent unemployment, a proliferation of temporary jobs and growing youth discouragement in advanced economies; and poor quality, informal, subsistence jobs in developing countries.

According to the ILO’s Global Employment Trends for Youth 2013 report, an estimated 73.4 million young people – 12.6 per cent – are expected to be out of work in 2013, close to the levels reached at the peak of the economic crisis in 2009. This is an increase of 3.5 million between 2007 and 2013.

Earlier projections had put the 2012 figure at 12.7 per cent but this has been adjusted to 12.4 based on new data. The trend, however, remains upward.

“These figures underline the need to focus policies on growth, massive improvements in education and training systems, and targeted youth employment actions,” says José Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs, ILO’s Assistant Director-General for Policy.

“Employers, education providers and youth often live in parallel universes, they do not sufficiently engage with each other. We know a lot about what works but real impact and scale can only be achieved through close partnerships and collective action,” he added.

Across regions

The highest regional youth unemployment rate in 2012 is registered in the Middle East, where 28.3 per cent were out of work – more than one in four economically active young people. On current projections, this is expected to rise to 30 per cent in 2018.

North Africa is also experiencing a very high youth unemployment rate – 23.7 per cent in 2012.

Young women in both these regions are the worst hit – 42.6 per cent of the female labour force in the Middle East is out of work, 37 per cent in North Africa.

Globally, the lowest rates in 2012 were in East Asia (9.5 per cent), and South Asia (9.3 per cent).


In advanced economies, the youth unemployment rate in 2012 was 18.1 per cent. It is likely to remain above 17 per cent until 2015 and is not predicted to drop below 17 per cent before 2016. In Greece and Spain, more than half of the economically active youth population is unemployed.

Shrinking options

Many young people have given up on the job search altogether. If they were factored into the unemployment figures, the report says, the number of young people either unemployed or discouraged from seeking work in advanced economies would increase to 13 million, compared to the 10.7 million who were actually unemployed in 2012.

Those who do find work are forced to be less selective about the type of job they settle for, including part-time work and temporary contracts because they are in desperate need of any income.

“Secure jobs that were once the norm for previous generations – at least in advanced economies – have become less easily accessible for today’s youth. The growth of temporary and part-time work, in particular since the height of the global economic crisis, suggests that such work is often the only option for young workers,” Salazar-Xirinachs explains.

The share of young people being out of work for at least six months is also increasing. In the OECD countries, more than one third of young, unemployed persons were classified “long-term unemployed” in 2011 – up from one quarter of the unemployed in 2008.

This is particularly worrying, says Salazar-Xirinachs: “The long-term consequences of persistently high youth unemployment include the loss of valuable work experience and the erosion of occupational skills. Moreover, unemployment experiences early in the career of a young person are likely to result in wage scars that continue to depress employment and earnings’ prospects even decades later.”

The number of NEET’s in advanced economies – those neither in employment, nor education or training is growing and stands at one in six – putting them at risk of labour market and social exclusion.

Skills mismatch

Skills and occupational mismatches, which are also increasing, are in danger of becoming entrenched, without policies to re-skill jobseekers – in close collaboration with the private sector. Youth who are vulnerable to occupational mismatch include, in particular, young women and youth who have already experienced unemployment.

“These consequences are likely to become stronger, the longer the youth unemployment crisis continues and will lead to an economic and social cost – increasing poverty and slow growth – that will far outweigh the cost of inaction,” Salazar-Xirinachs stresses.

Targeted action needed

The report urges governments to take immediate and targeted action to tackle the youth employment crisis. Concerted and joint efforts by employers’ organizations and trade unions are also called for.

It stresses that there is no “one-size-fits all” solution but says that the key policy areas, identified in the ILO’s June 2012 Call for Action, is a global framework which can be adapted to national and local circumstances.

The report calls for:

  • Fostering pro-employment growth and decent job creation through macroeconomic policies, employability, labour market policies, youth entrepreneurship and rights to tackle the social consequences of the crisis, while ensuring financial and fiscal sustainability.
  • Comprehensive measures targeting disadvantaged young people in advanced economies with high numbers of unemployed youth. These include education, training, work experience support and recruitment incentives for potential employers.
  • Integrated employment and livelihoods strategies and programmes in developing countries, including training in literacy, occupational and entrepreneurial skills and business support.

Contact and info

ILO-Brussels Office, + 32 (0)2 736 59 42, brussels@ilo.org
Barbara Janssens, Communication Assistant, ILO-Brussels, +32 (0)484 91 55 59, janssens@ilo.org, @barbarajanssens

Report and all available materials are on /getyouth2013.