Youth unemployment at highest recorded level - ILO report; 36 million Asia Pacific young people unemployed – A possible “Lost generation”

The global unemployment rate for young people has risen to its highest recorded level, and is expected to continue increasing until the end of 2010, a new report issued by the International Labour Organization (ILO) says.

Press release | 12 August 2010

BANGKOK (ILO News) – The global unemployment rate for young people has risen to its highest recorded level, and is expected to continue increasing until the end of 2010, a new report issued by the International Labour Organization1 (ILO) says.

Youth unemployment stood at 13 percent globally at the end of 2009, equivalent to 81 million young people. That’s an increase of 7.8 million since 2007, prior to the global crisis.

More than 36.4 million of these 15-24 year-olds were in Asia Pacific, home to 56 per cent (or approximately 350 million) of the global economically active youth population (of 620 million).When looked at by sub-region this means that at the end of 2009 there were 12.8 million unemployed young people in East Asia2, 8.3 million in South-East Asia & the Pacific3 and 15.3 million in South Asia4.

The peak of the crisis period (2008-9) also saw the largest annual increase in global youth unemployment ever recorded – a rise of one per cent. The crisis period also reversed the downward trend in youth unemployment that has been underway globally since 2002 and in Asia Pacific for five or more years.

Globally, the youth unemployment rate is expected to continue rising until the end of 2010 to reach 13.1, before falling back to 12.7 per cent in 2011. In South-East Asia & the Pacific the rate is expected to peak at 14.8 percent this year before falling to 14.6 per cent in 2011. In South Asia and East Asia the rates peaked in 2009 and the projected 2010 rates of 10.3 and 8.4 per cent are predicted to fall in 2011 to 9.8 and 8.1 per cent respectively. However, in South Asia, the report cautions that demographic trends are likely to mean job market pressures intensify, as an average of one million young people are expected to enter the labour market every year between 2010 and 2015.

The report, ILO Global Employment Trends for Youth August 2010, special issue on the impact of the global economic crisis on youth is being issued to coincide with the launch of the UN’s International Youth Year.

The report warns of the "risk of a possible crisis legacy of a ‘lost generation’ comprised of young people who detach themselves completely from the labour market, having lost all hope of being able to work for a decent living".

It also argues the true “lost generation” of youth will be the poor in developing countries. “As more young people remain (or enter) in poverty over the course of the crisis, the hope of a youth-driven push towards development in low-income countries remains stalled,” it says.

In many parts of Asia Pacific – and globally - young women faced more difficulty finding work than their male counterparts. The 2009 female youth unemployment rate for South-East Asia & the Pacific stood at 15.7 cent, compared to 14 per cent for men. In South Asia it was 10.9 per cent for young women and 10.1 per cent for young men. Globally the rates were 13.2 for women and 12.9 for men. In only two geographical areas did women fare better, East Asia (7.4 per cent compared to 10.3 per cent for men) and the European Union.

The report also finds that youth unemployment has been more sensitive to the crisis than adult unemployment and the job market recovery for young men and women is likely to lag behind that of adults. Worldwide young people are almost three times as likely as adults to be unemployed, but in 2009 in South East Asia & the Pacific the ratio was 4.6 – the worst in the world. In South Asia they are more than three times as likely to be unemployed and in East Asia 2.6 times.

The report also cautions that in developing countries youth unemployment figures do not give a full picture of the situation because young people cannot rely on family or the government to subsidize their job search and must take any available work to survive. One example cited is Cambodia, where many laid-off female garment factory workers have returned to family agricultural work.

Young people also suffer disproportionately from decent work deficits such as working poverty or poor employment status. The report estimates that 152 million young people, or about 28 percent of all the young workers in the world, worked but remained in extreme poverty (earning less than US$1.25 per person per day) in 2008. In Bhutan the rate of working poverty among youth exceeds the adult rate by more than 10 percentage points, and in Viet Nam by more than five percentage points.

"Young people are the drivers of economic development in a country. If they can’t realize their potential the entire society looses out;” said Sachiko Yamamoto, Regional Director, ILO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific. “It may seem costly to help young people who have given up hope of finding decent work - with a living wage, decent conditions and prospects for development - but not taking action is even more expensive because the investment in education is wasted, future tax revenue is lost and there will be pressure on social security and remedial services. So focusing national employment assistance measures on young people makes sense".

"The Global Jobs Pact, which was unanimously adopted by the ILO's membership in 2009, includes a range of measures to help sustain youth employment, including incentives for job creation, skills development, income support, public works and youth entrepreneurship training. Many countries in Asia Pacific have already included these measures in their crisis responses," she said.

1 The ILO is the United Nations agency dealing with work and workplace issues.
2 China, Hong Kong SAR, People’s Democratic Republic of Korea, Republic of Korea, Macau SAR, Mongolia, Taiwan (China)
3 South-East Asia: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Viet Nam. Pacific Islands: American Samoa, Cook islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, Guam, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Caledonia, Niue, North Mariana Islands, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Wallis and Futuna Islands,
4 Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka

Click here to download the full report.

For further information please contact:

Sophy Fisher
Regional Information Officer
ILO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok
Tel: +662 288 2482

Krisdaporn Singhaseni
Information Officer
ILO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok
Tel: +662 288 1664