“Today’s young people are the best-educated and trained generation ever. In terms of employment, the expected inflow of young people into the labour market, rather than being viewed as a problem, should be recognized as presenting an enormous opportunity and potential for economic and social development.”
Juan Somavia, Director-General, ILO,
interviewed by the Financial Times, 23 January 2004
Young women and men are invaluable assets that no country can afford to waste. They bring energy, talent and creativity to the world of work together with new skills and the motivation that enable companies to grow, innovate and prosper. But today’s youth face important challenges in the labour market. On average, young women and men around the world are two to three times as likely as adults to be out of work. Furthermore, large numbers of young people work long hours for low pay, with limited job security and no voice at work.
Creating quality jobs for young women and men entering the labour market is thus a critical component in the path towards wealthier economies, fairer societies and stronger democracies. Young people are our future but also our present. The opportunities that are being created for young people today lay the foundations for what economies will be able to achieve tomorrow. It is through employment that young people can realize their aspirations, improve their living conditions and fulfil their responsibilities, not only as productive agents but also as citizens. In turn, employment for young people makes economies stronger. Young people become active consumers, savers and tax payers. Companies benefit from a productive and motivated youth workforce. Ultimately, the positive impact of youth employment spills over society at large, by contributing to sharing wealth across generations and also by reducing costs related to social problems, such as drug abuse and crime.
Meeting the youth employment challenge requires determined and concerted action over time. No actor can take on this challenge alone. Government cannot do without business and business cannot do it without young workers and their representatives. There is an imperative need for different actors and institutions to join forces. The business community has a key role to play in this major endeavour. Employers and their organizations have not only a compelling incentive to act; they also possess the experience and knowledge needed to act effectively and successfully.