Over the past year, much attention in the development community has been focused on reaching two global milestones by 2030: ending extreme poverty and promoting shared prosperity. The World Bank Group and the International Youth Foundation, together with many of our public, private, and philanthropic partners, have recognized that to reach such ambitious goals, the world must achieve broad-based and inclusive economic growth that is focused directly on youth and jobs. Here's why we think pursuing this strategy is such an urgent priority.
A staggering one billion young people between now and 2030 will be entering the world’s labor markets seeking decent jobs and a better life. Adding to that challenge is the estimated 5 million jobs that must be created each month just to keep the youth employment rate at current levels. The world’s young people – both this generation and the next -- will face a truly stark reality unless a far higher level of attention, resources, and commitment to action is mustered to combat rising youth unemployment.
Efforts thus far to tackle this global crisis, which has left nearly half of today’s youth either jobless, underemployed, or stuck in low-paying, dead-end jobs, have led to some reasonably promising new initiatives. But we must move beyond pilot programs to scalable and sustained action.
In response, six partner organizations -- the World Bank Group, Accenture, International Youth Foundation, Plan International, RAND Corporation and Youth Business International -- today announce the launch of a powerful new global coalition that we believe will help millions more young men and women make the successful transition to productive employment in the years ahead. "Solutions for Youth Employment,” or S4YE, comes at a critically important time.
For those struggling to build a better life, sustainable development equals having a job, especially a job in the private sector that can develop into a longer-term career. Being employed means having predictable income that provides a family with food, shelter, and basic health care. Similarly, starting a small and successful business can provide savings, allow young entrepreneurs to employ other community members, and create a conduit for taxes. A strong tax base becomes the means for any economy to afford basic safety net services that can go a long way toward avoiding extreme poverty -- or mitigating its impact during economic downturns.
Today, the largest demographic cohort of young people in the history of the planet -- some call it the "youth bulge" -- is ready or poised to enter the current labor market. To reach our 2030 goals, a far greater number of these young people over the next decade must be hired and continue to be employed in decent jobs, earning regular paychecks, or heading up a small business.
Looking toward the future, we must do more than ensure today's late teenagers and early 20-year-olds are employed and into their careers by 2030. Their children, too —today’s babies and toddlers who are also part of the global youth bulge – must also be fully prepared for success in the job market when they come of age. When gainfully employed, this two-generation cohort will become the "youth dividend" that can drive economic growth and prosperity for the next 50 to 60 years.
If, on the other hand, these young people cannot find that first decent job, they are not likely to be employed, or have an income, for the rest of their lives. The growing unrest and instability in today’s world are a dramatic testament to what can and will happen when dreams for a life of dignity and financial independence are dashed.
Jobs and broad-based, inclusive economic growth -- where those at the bottom of the economic ladder , particularly young people, have the skills and opportunities to earn their way into the working class and become tax payers and consumers -- is the only way to end extreme poverty and grow prosperity.
Why is S4YE in such a strong position to help us address these challenges and move forward? First, the coalition represents a uniquely powerful and broad-based group of government and business leaders, policymakers, and non-profit organizations all committed to improving the economic prospects of the world’s youth. Second, S4YE will systematically share with their partners the growing store of knowledge around best practices and programs that can generate a lasting impact on youth and their communities. Third, coalition members will have the capacity to leverage their combined resources and target those investments to support effective, large scale and sustainable solutions to youth employment at higher levels than ever before.
Our young people have the enormous potential to become the engines of economic growth and prosperity for decades to come. Ensuring that potential is realized, and to reach our ambitious goal to end extreme poverty across the globe, is no easy or short term task. It will demand our best ideas, our collective resources, and an enduring commitment to the future. Join us.
Arup Banerji is the Senior Director for Social Protection and Labor at the World Bank Group. William Reese is the President and CEO of the International Youth Foundation.
Follow the World Bank Social Protection and Labor team on Twitter: @WBG_SPLabor
Follow the International Youth Foundation on Twitter: @IYFtweets
Watch the Solutions for Youth Employment Instagram video at http://instagram.com/worldbank