Africa’s combination of urban, educated, unemployed youth and economies still dominated by a narrow range of commodities and the public sector has spurred many to call for structural shifts in production and employment as part of an inclusive growth strategy. A recent entry into the debate is the 2014 African Transformation Report, launched last week by the African Center for Economic Transformation (ACET). As Homi’s and Julie’s post states, the depth, sophistication and pragmatism of the analysis are commendable. But if all the recommendations were implemented, what would they do for the employment prospects of today’s African youth? Not much. They would barely affect the job prospects of 90 percent of young people entering the labor force in this decade.
Between five and five-thirty in the morning is the only time she gets to herself, which she uses to work out, or read a book. After that, the grind of everyday life in Poland’s countryside takes over. She cooks, washes, cleans, irons, and cooks for her seven children, aged two to fifteen. And it doesn’t stop until late at night.
Elzbieta’s family and other families with multiple children are rather unique in Poland, which has one of the lowest fertility rates in the world. When asked why they didn’t have children in a recent country-wide survey, 71 percent of Poles said unstable employment and difficulties in balancing work and family life were big factors.
Their fears are not without reason -- with each child, the risk of poverty increases tremendously -- families with three or more children are more likely to be in the lowest income group, with 26.6 percent of households with four children living in poverty in Poland, according to the Main Statistical Office.
Even buying clothes for children is a daunting task, in such cases. “We have started participating in lotteries organized by local clothes stores, with no luck so far,” Elzbieta said. “We do it because taxes for children’s clothes and shoes were recently raised, and families like ours are most affected. Families with children are just not given a chance.”
Elzbieta talked to me as she picked flowers in a nearby field, while watching her five-year old daughter. The flowers she collected would later be dried on a bench outside her rural home and used for making herbal teas for the family. Even buying tea is a financial challenge for Elzbieta’s family, whose income, a total of PLN 3,280 (about $1,100) comes from social assistance for children, including a disabled child (PLN 2,000) and her husband’s income – after the payment of a home renovation loan – of PLN1, 280.
But hospitality is not to be spared.
Let’s face it. If we are ever going to successfully address the worldwide youth unemployment crisis, we need to act together — as a global community. That’s why last year, with the publication of Opportunity for Action, Microsoft and the International Youth Foundation called on leaders in the public, private, youth, and civil society sectors to join a “collective, massive and global” effort to expand job and livelihood opportunities for today’s youth.
Since then, there’s been a real sense of momentum on the issue, particularly among high-level policymakers. Just last week, the World Bank sponsored a lively roundtable discussion the day before its Annual Meetings in Washington, D.C. that echoed the urgent call for collective action around youth unemployment. Speaking to a packed hall filled with finance ministers, private sector executives, and development experts from around the world, the panelists at the “Boosting Shared Prosperity by Getting to Youth Employment Solutions” event offered concrete examples of practical and sustainable solutions to the current crisis. Yet the conversation kept returning to the need to act together to have real impact.
Just six months ago, in the previous South East Europe Regular Economic Report (SEE RER) covering the six Western Balkan countries of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, FYR Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia (SEE6), we looked at the double-dip recession in this region, and structural policies needed for recovery.
Now, we are happy to report that recovery is, indeed, under way in each of these countries. In 2013, the SEE6 region is projected to grow 1.7 percent, thus ending the double-dip recession of 2012. Electricity, agriculture, and even some exports are helping with this rebound of output. Kosovo is leading the pack with a growth rate of 3.1 percent, with Serbia (which accounts for nearly half of the region’s GDP) expected to grow by 2 percent on the heels of increased FDI, exports, and a return to normal agricultural crops. (In 2012, by contrast, agricultural output in Serbia dropped 20 percent on account of a severe drought). Albania, FYR Macedonia, and Montenegro are all expected to grow by between 1.2-1.6 percent. Rounding out this group is Bosnia and Herzegovina – with expected growth of 0.5 percent.
So, are things finally looking up in the Balkans? Not exactly.
Figure 1: SEE6 Unemployment Rates, 2012
Source: LFS data and ILO. Kosovo’s tentative data suggest unemployment as high as 35 percent.
By Mirjana Popovic and Vesna Kostic
Mar. 8: Working Women’s Day or Jobless Women’s Day in Serbia?
By Mirjana Popovic, Online Communications Producer
In the former Yugoslavia, where I was born, International Women’s Day used to celebrate respect and appreciation for women in society: mothers, wives, female colleagues – in this order.
What is it like in today’s Serbia? The glory of the holiday has faded and new challenges have arisen.
Ibrahim Fanday, Chairman of Kono Youth Commission smiled proudly as he says ‘Kono is known as a trouble hot-spot – but at the end of the day, the elections were peaceful.’ Martha Lewis, a member of the local women’s network, agreed, saying ‘Hot spot? Cold spot!’
When Sierra Leone went to the polls in November last year, it followed months of speculation and fears that the hotly contested elections would be a flash-point for violence. And Kono, the state which saw the worst of the ten year civil war, and remains notorious chiefly for its diamond miles and its instability, was predicted to be at the centre of any trouble.
The elections passed without major disturbances and were pronounced free and fair by the EU observers following them. Ibrahim believes that the youth of Kono played a role in keeping the polling peaceful, by acting as ‘peace ambassadors’ in their communities. His pride is echoed by everyone I speak to - Sierra Leone seems to have passed some kind of test, in both national and international eyes, by holding an election where 87.3% of the population turned out to vote, and the peace held.
From the World Development Report 2013
621 million young people are “idle”—not in school or training, not employed, and not looking for work. Rates of idleness vary across countries, ranging between 10 and 50 percent among 15- to 24-year-olds.
How do you measure unemployment? By counting the number of people looking for work but unable to find it. However, this measure overlooks people willing to work and not necessarily looking for jobs. In an interesting chart, The Economist illustrates how a broader measure makes unemployment in Europe look even worse.
Last week, we launched a global conversation on what will it take... to end poverty? ....for your family to be better off? .... for all to get an education? This week, people from around the world joined the discussion with their own question: #whatwillittake for youth to get better jobs?