GENEVA (ILO News) – ILO Director-General Juan Somavia has called for a new policy paradigm to promote inclusive job-rich growth for the almost 75 million unemployed youth aged 15-24 worldwide.
Speaking at the panel on “Averting a lost generation” during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Mr. Somavia said the youth employment crisis had reached unprecedented and intolerable dimensions, with four out of 10 unemployed in the world being either a young woman or man.
He said a major driving force behind the youth crisis was a slack in aggregate demand at the global and, in some cases, national level. He said it was time to concentrate on pro-employment strategies for youth that would eventually sustain consumption, boost demand, promote growth and create more jobs.
This is not only an agenda for governments but also for the business and private sector, Mr. Somavia said, adding that the number one constraint for small-and-medium-sized companies for hiring youth is the lack of credit access.
The ILO Director-General also referred to the critical role of education and training, especially in times of crisis, saying that governments should work closely with the private sector to reduce skills mismatches. Some CEOs attending Davos have commented on the difficulties of filling certain posts despite high levels of unemployment.
Mr. Somavia cited Germany, Austria, Denmark, Switzerland and Norway, which offer dual systems of apprenticeships combining school-based education with in-company training as successful skill-matching examples.
He also stressed the need to provide a wide variety of incentives to promote youth employment, such as hiring subsidies, training and retraining grants and services to facilitate the transition to jobs, including career guidance, effective contacts with enterprises and advice on how to prepare for interviews.
In addition, he called for the promotion of youth entrepreneurship and partnerships between public employment services and private employment agencies.
Recent innovative public employment programmes have proven their effectiveness in providing employment and social protection to youth living in poverty, while creating small-scale infrastructure to increase the productivity in disadvantaged economies (NREGA in India, and Expanded Public Works Programmes in South Africa, Ethiopia, Kenya and Mali).
According to Mr. Somavia, young workers worldwide have lost faith in the current paradigm. The world economy is simply not working for them. This disenchantment is reflected in many ways, not least through the youth protests that have unfolded in some 1,000 cities and 82 countries over the past months.
The need for decent Jobs, social justice and dignity, on the one hand, and anger against inequality and greed, on the other, have been at the forefront of these protests and can lead to more political and social instability, Mr. Somavia said, adding that a real transformation was needed to reform current policies.