GENEVA (ILO News) - Calling youth unemployment and underemployment "extremely serious and damaging for society as a whole," the International Labour Office (ILO) is launching two new publications designed at stimulating employers, workers and governments to find solutions to the global youth jobs challenge.
"The initiatives are aimed at a global youth employment crisis in which some 70 million young women and men worldwide are without work", ILO Director-General Juan Somavia said. "Solving this problem will require the creation of hundreds of millions of jobs - most of them for young people - over the next decade in order to avoid the "permanently damaging" consequences of unemployment that can last a lifetime."
To meet this challenge, ILO is to launch a new guide for employers entitled Meeting the youth employment challenge: A guide for employers 1 and a study entitled Youth unemployment and employment policy: A global perspective 2 by Niall O'Higgins at a meeting of its Governing Body which concludes this week.
Both volumes are part of a global initiative in which the ILO Director-General Juan Somavia will join UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and World Bank President James Wolfensohn in convening a high-level policy network on youth employment later this year. This joint global initiative was called for by the Secretary-General of the United Nations in his report to the Millennium Assembly, and received the support of world Heads of State and Governments who, as stated in the Millennium Declaration, agreed "to develop and implement strategies that give young people everywhere a real chance to find decent and productive work". The network will draw on leaders in private industry, economic policy and civil society to explore imaginative approaches and launch concrete action to address the youth employment challenge.
Meeting the youth employment challenge: A guide for employers is aimed at helping employers and their organizations initiate and expand action to promote employment for young women and men worldwide, using such means as influencing public policy to supporting youth entrepreneurship and involving other groups such as trade unions and educational institutions.
The guide is available free of charge from the ILO InFocus Programme on Skills, Knowledge and Employability, and the Bureau for Employers' Activities. A similar guide is under preparation for trade unions.
Most of the 500 million new jobs the world economy must create over the next ten years will be for youth. Currently, the world faces a significant challenge involving youth who experience unemployment rates considerably higher than for the population as a whole in most countries. In addition to the estimated 70 million unemployed youth today, millions more between the ages of 15 and 24 are underemployed, especially in the developing world. Many countries sustain youth unemployment rates of 15 or more per cent.
Meeting the youth employment challenge shows how employers and their organizations can help establish the right long-term policy choices that would lead to economic growth and the generation of decent job opportunities for young men and women. The guide has gathered experiences and ideas from employers in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas on how to bridge the skills gap, improve the quality of education and prepare the young for work. Considerable importance is given to youth entrepreneurship. It also highlights how multi-national companies such Cisco and Nokia as well as innovative small firms approach the issue, and why they believe it is their business interest to take initiatives on training and form partnership with educational institutions.
Youth unemployment and employment policy: A global perspective analyses the youth employment crisis and examines various policy responses. It emphasizes the role of adequate labour market information, argues for more demand-oriented policies based on social partnership, stresses the need for focusing efforts on the most disadvantaged young people, and calls for careful programme monitoring and evaluation. The publication is available from the ILO publications department.
The study concludes that youth unemployment has reached high levels across a wide range of countries and, almost everywhere, rates of unemployed young people are significantly higher than adult unemployment rates. It also notes that the consequences of youth unemployment, such as social exclusion, which can lead to drug abuse, crime and social unrest, are "extremely serious and damaging for society as a whole."
"The time a young person spends unemployed, particularly if periods are prolonged, can have permanently damaging consequences on the rest of that person's 'working' life," the study says. "Even though long-term unemployment does not necessarily lead young people to behave unsocially, behavioural patterns established early on in life, together with the lack of training and employment experience, are likely to affect the employment and earnings' potential of young people for the rest of their lives."
Another publication on organizing young workers into trade unions is expected to come out ahead of the July meeting of the high policy network. The document, prepared by the Bureau for workers' activities, will look into trade union strategies and best practices to encourage young workers to join unions in four selected countries United States, Canada, United Kingdom and Norway.
For more information about the youth employment initiative or to obtain copies of the new publications, please contact the ILO at "firstname.lastname@example.org".
1 Meeting the youth employment challenge: A guide for employers, International Labour Office, Geneva, ISBN 92-2-112415-0.
2 Youth unemployment and employment policy: A global perspective , International Labour Office, Geneva, ISBN 92-2-111348-5, SFR 27.50.