Labor and Social Protection
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.
Ask one of the millions of youth in Nairobi or New Delhi about their concerns for the future, and more than likely the response will be that he or she is worried about finding a job.
There are more than 1.2 billion young people between the ages of 15 and 24 in the world. Seventy-five million of them are unemployed, according to the International Labor Organization (ILO).
There are many people around the world eager to move to locations where employment opportunities exist in labor intensive services, such as agriculture or old age care. Encouraging this kind of mobility could potentially offset labor shortages in receiving countries while alleviating poverty for sending country populations. Sadly, this win-win outcome remains elusive, as willing and eager would-be migrants stay trapped in their own countries.
The socioeconomic challenges facing Algeria are many, the most urgent of which is without doubt youth unemployment. In a July 5 interview with the weekly, Jeune Afrique, Mr. Issad Rebrab, the CEO of Algeria’s leading private industrial group Cevital, ran through the raw facts: “Our unemployment rate is 10%, but youth unemployment is above 35%”. He added: “Algeria must move swiftly towards diversifying its economy and creating jobs.”
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The numbers are staggering. Almost one third of the populations of Algeria and Morocco are under the age of 15, with Tunisia following close behind. This ‘youth bulge’ is placing immense pressure on the education systems of the Maghreb.
International labor markets are perhaps the last bastion of protectionism. We know that easing restrictions on the movement of people, especially the less skilled, can unleash huge welfare gains which by some estimates dwarf the gains from complete trade liberalization. And yet, progress on this front has been too slow.
I landed in Chisinau on a short flight from Frankfurt a mere two years ago. I immediately liked this vibrant and cosmopolitan city built with white limestone and awash with greenery, and remember thinking that it has the potential to attract scores of tourists. But tickets to fly into Chisinau were expensive in 2011.
I also recall so vividly my first trip through the Moldovan countryside shortly after. An amalgam of bright green leaves on walnut trees contrasted the yellow of the sunflowers that grow in fields with some of the most fertile soil in the world. I was immediately struck by the immense potential that Moldova holds in agriculture.
Good things have happened since then.