Thursday, 16 May 2013

Can good governance solve youth unemployment?

This article by Robbie Lawrence, highlights how young people are very much part of the solution to youth unemployment. This post is part of the Wikiprogress Governance and Civic Engagement Series

“Education is our top priority but, once educated we want to be trained, enabled – and funded – to take action to address the challenges faced by our generation through youth-led development. We want, in Gandhi’s words, to ‘be the change’ we want to see in the world…” World Youth Congress, Hawaii, 1999

On the same day that the Bank of England upgraded its economic forecast, stating that inflation is expected to drop within the next two years, the Trades Union Congress reported that UK unemployment figures grew by 15,000 in the first three months of 2012 to 2.52 million. Rising employment numbers in the latter months of 2012 had offered a level of respite for the British government following a bruising financial year, however, today’s findings show that joblessness is still extensive.

The issue remains embedded among young people, with jobless rates soaring towards the one million mark and standing at 21.2% across the country. The TUC is concerned that while employment prospects for older workers have been improving, those for young people are far worse, and have deteriorated further since mid-2010. The damaging effects of unemployment on young people are well documented, and there is an increasing risk that the UK’s current 15-24 year olds will suffer lasting damage to their earnings potential and job prospects throughout their lives.

Global figures are equally gloomy. Over the last few years we have been inundated with statistics on the deteriorating situation in Europe (particularly Spain) for young job seekers and in Africa well over half of 15-24 year olds are currently out of work. According to a UN led report released last week, the weakening world wide recovery has further aggravated the youth job crisis and as a result the problem will continue growing over the next five years. The International Labour Organization’s ‘Global Employment Trends forYouth 2013: A generation at risk’ estimates that 73.4 million young people (12.6 percent) are expected to be out of work in 2013, and by 2018, this will have reached 12.8 percent.

Graph taken from ILO Report 2013

The report stipulates that young people face persistent unemployment, a proliferation of temporary jobs and growing discouragement in advanced economies; and poor quality, informal, subsistence jobs in developing countries:

“The economic and social costs of unemployment, long-term unemployment, discouragement and widespread low-quality jobs for young people continue to rise and undermine economies’ growth potential,” ILO - Global Employment Trends for Youth 2013 report.

Despite vocal concern around the issue, it seems that governments and organisations have struggled to find an effective means of combating youth unemployment. The recent World Economic Forum in Davos touched upon the subject on a number of occasions with some leaders suggesting that a global fund for unemployment be implemented. Yet there have been murmurings among critics that such steps are simply inadequate when faced with the ‘tidal wave’ of jobless young people sweeping the world’s nations. Lynda Cratton of the London Business School believes that in a similar way to global warming, the sheer complexity of the challenge renders it almost impossible to solve.

Following the release of ‘A generation at risk’ the ILO’s assistant director-general for policy José Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs stated, ‘These figures underline the need to focus policies on growth, massive improvements in training systems and targeted youth employment actions’. 

Two recent Wikichild Spotlight reports look at tackling youth unemployment through effective governance.

- Developed by UNICEF and Save the Children, Children's Rights and Business Principles provides a comprehensive framework for understanding and addressing the impact of business on the rights and well-being of children. The Children’s Rights and Business Principles are built on existing standards and practices and helps to explain the opportunities for business of investing in children.  

- First published in Nairobi last year, UN-HABITAT’s State of the Field in Youth Development sheds light on how youth are positively impacting communities around the world. As part of wider series, this particular report stresses how young people can be beneficial to communities, and how local, national and international governments can implement, engage and support youth and youth led initiatives.

Both reports look to brand young people as ambassadors of change. ‘Children’s Right’s and Business Principles’ recognizes that children are among the most marginalised members of society, yet when provided with the agency to participate, they have shown that they can offer vital alternative viewpoints and make effective contributions. Similarly, ‘State of the Field’ emphasizes the need to have faith in the power of young people to contribute constructively to the good of society. It seems that both publications hope to change the attitude of governing bodies towards young people by showing that they themselves have placed youths at the center of their own projects. The ‘State of the Field’ report lists countless examples of how initiatives led by young people have positively benefited society.

Youth unemployment is undoubtedly one of the greatest challenges facing governments this century and will worsen as populations swell and education becomes more readily available. However, the two publications featured provide hard facts about how the integration of young people in a country’s workforce can catalyse economic prosperity. With the development of more projects similar to the ones mentioned in the ‘State of the Field’ it seems that we can go someway to combating the problem.   

Robbie Lawrence 
Wikichild Coordinator 

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