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Indicator 2: Youth Unemployment Rate

Definition and rationale

The unemployment rate is defined as the number of unemployed youth (typically 15-24 years) divided by the youth labour force (employment + unemployment).

The unemployment rate is probably the best-known and most used labour market indicator. Together with the employment-to-population ratio, it provides the broadest indicator of labour market performance. Specifically, the unemployment rate is a measure of the inability of an economy to generate employment for those persons who are not employed but are available and actively seeking work.

In most industrialized countries, the unemployment rate is regarded as an important indicator of labour market performance.  In low-income countries, however, the significance and meaning of the unemployment rate is much more limited.  In the absence of unemployment insurance or other public relief schemes, relatively few people can survive lengthy unemployment without family support.  The majority of the workers must engage in some form of economic activity, however insignificant or inadequate.  This is often in the informal economy and/or in self-employment.

Numerator and denominator and method of computation

The unemployed youth comprise all persons between the age of 15 and 24 who, during the reference period, were: (a) without work; i.e. had not worked for even one hour in any economic activity (paid employment, self-employment, or unpaid work for a family business or farm); (b) currently available for work; and (c) actively seeking work; i.e. had taken active steps to see work during a specified recent period (usually the past four weeks).

Youth labour force comprises all persons between the age of 15 and 24 who were either employed or unemployed over a specified reference period.

youth unemployment rate

Where available, a break down by duration should be given, especially for > 12 months (long-term unemployment).

Relevant ICLS resolutions and guidelines / other international classifications

Resolution concerning statistics of the economically active population, employment, unemployment and underemployment, adopted by the 13th ICLS (October 1982);

Sources and data collection

Information on unemployment is commonly obtained from one of three sources: Household-based labour surveys, official estimates, and population censuses. However, the information is generally derived from household surveys, the preferred type of source as it allows for the application of the ICLS Resolution.

Comments and limitations

Several aspects of unemployment statistics cause non-comparability across countries, including for example, the data source (e.g. whether based on labour force survey questions, or on registration at employment offices), age group covered, how trainees and other particular categories of workers are counted, and the criteria for deciding what constitutes an active job search.


Youth Labour Market Indicators


Last update:02.08.2011 ^ top