Global Employment Trends for Youth 2020

Unemployment, informality and inactivity plague youth in Latin America and the Caribbean

There are 9.4 million unemployed young people, 23 million do not study or work, and more than 30 million only get informal employment. The situation is worrying, and will become more complicated by the effects of coronavirus (COVID-19), said ILO Regional Director Vinícius Pinheiro.

News | 16 March 2020
Lima, Peru – High unemployment, informality and inactivity rates affect nearly 110 million young people in Latin America and the Caribbean, says the International Labour Organization (ILO) Regional Office, citing new data included in a report on employment trends. These challenges also present obstacles to developing effective strategies to improve youth participation in labour markets.

"The youth employment scenario in the region is worrying, and will be further complicated when the impact of coronavirus on the regional economy is felt," said Vinícius Pinheiro, ILO Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, commenting on the regional data of the “Global Employment Trends for Youth 2020 Report” that was recently presented in Geneva.

Pinheiro emphasized that temporary, part-time, or unprotected jobs in informal conditions, which young people tend to have, are the most affected by the deterioration of the economy. "The coronavirus will infect labour markets and affect youth employment indicators," he said.

"When there is a crisis, young people are among the first to lose their jobs, mainly those in the informal economy, and in sectors such as tourism, transport, non-electronic commerce and other services in which telework is not an option," he explained.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, there are 9.4 million unemployed young people, as well as 23 million who neither study nor work nor are in training. This share of the youth population is also known by the acronym NEET. More than 30 million youth only get informal employment, according to the new ILO report.

The youth labour participation rate of 48.7 per cent in 2020 has been declining slightly but persistently since 2000, when it was 53.7 per cent. This means that there are more than 52 million people between the ages of 15 and 24 in the regional workforce. That number includes the employed and those who are unemployed but actively seeking employment.

The predicted youth unemployment rate for 2020 is 18 per cent. This estimate is double the general rate and three times more than that of adults, a trend observed in almost all countries.

Unemployment is considered the tip of the iceberg by the ILO, which also emphasizes the high informality rate of 62.4 per cent for young people -- 10 percentage points higher than that of adults. This implies that most of the jobs available to them are precarious, low-income, without protection or rights.

The Trends Report published by the ILO earlier this year makes special reference to the fact that a fifth of young people are NEETs, which means that they are neither gaining experience in the labour market, nor receiving income from a job, nor improving their education or competencies.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, 21.7 per cent of all young people are within the NEET group, a rate that has also experienced a slight but persistent rise since 2000, when it was 20.1 per cent.

"Such a high rate of young people who do not study, do not work or receive training is highly concerning for the region," Pinheiro stressed.

Furthermore, the data from the new ILO report reflects an unfavourable situation of young women at work.

In the case of NEETs, the rate of women of 28.9 per cent is double that of men of 14.6 per cent. Most of these 15.3 million young women have difficulties accessing the labour market, training or study due to unpaid occupations in the home.

Gender differences in the region are also noticeable, as the unemployment rate of young women of 22 per cent is almost 7 percentage points above the 15.2 per cent of men in 2020.

“The lack of decent work opportunities discourages and frustrates young people, which can have an impact on governance and affect the social development of the region, because in many cases it affects employment trajectories,” highlighted Mr Pinheiro.

"Especially in a context of probable decrease in demand caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is essential to promote youth-focused economic stimulus measures," he added.

"We have to redouble our efforts to create opportunities for adequate productive employment for the next generation of workers," stresses the ILO report.

Integrated and effective policy measures are crucial. Supply-side measures (training and education) are important but not sufficient, unless they are accompanied by equally firm measures to boost the demand for youth labour, the ILO analysis adds.