A report released on August 19, at the launch of the United Nation's International Year of Youth, by the International Labor Organization reveals that youth unemployment has reached historic records with over 81 million young people between the ages 18-25 unemployed globally. When one considers that this same age-group is more likely to be educated than the generation before them, a pretty good conclusion is that a vast majority of the unemployed are indeed educated.
I have often wondered about the dangers this paradox presents to our world. An educated unemployed person is a double-edged sword. They could be awaiting opportunities for their skills to be utilized for good purposes (high skill jobs, cheap labor and/or opportunistic entrepreneurs with innovative ideas) or bad purposes (as potential law breakers and deft con-artists).
Indeed, large sums of money are invested in educating unemployed graduates, which could otherwise have been invested in job-creating productive programs for low-skilled workers. This means there is a lot of waste in a world where increasingly competitive social demands have to be optimized to get the best results.
Examining the dark side of unemployment reveals the dire situation that a frustrated graduate (of high school or university) confronts. On one hand, these unemployed belong to the cream of the crop of their societies, having earned an education: on the other hand they sit on the fringes left with nothing but a paper certificate, and no way to justify the enhanced expectations of their societies.
This quagmire can breed frustration and resentment. If a hungry man is an angry man, then an educated hungry man is not only a very angry man, but a dangerous one for that matter. A fully engaged educated labor force is dynamic and productive, and an unengaged one is a battleground of dangerous ideas from terrorism, to separatism and gangsterism (piracy, economic sabotage and smuggling). He, being armed with an education, is most likely to be diligent in planning, open to new information, deliberative in execution and uncanny in evading law enforcement.
While there are bountiful programs (in microfinance, cottage industry entrepreneurship programs etc.) that cater to the low skill unemployed, there is yet to be an active discussion on how to combat unemployment in the post secondary educated cadre. The best policy is one that recognizes the social encumbrance that job search places on this section of the population, as well as a recognition of the unique skills they’ve acquired through their education.
A series of policy prescriptions that straddles innovation and entrepreneurship provides the broad framework for such solutions. Innovation, by virtue of its construct, is appealing to high skilled workers and attracts the best minds. A move away from the culture of simply “buying and selling,” “exporting raw materials, and importing finished goods” and “from extracting to “manufacturing and servicing,” will inevitably be necessary to maximize use of the highly educated labor force.
The cadre of the potentially dangerous, educated and unemployed people will only rise in numbers across the world, and the sooner we strive to keep down the tempo of unemployment, the safer we shall all be, from dangerously angry (hungry) but enlightened minds.
Photo: Thousands of graduates queue for an employment test for Intercontinental Bank Nigeria / © nigeriansinamerica.com