In the 2010 World Bank essay competition , young people around the world were invited to submit essays and videos responding to the following questions:
- How does youth unemployment affect you, your country, town or local community?
- What can you do, working together with your peers, to find a sustainable solution for job seekers through youth entrepreneurship? Think specifically about the barriers youths face in the labor market and how to tackle difficulties in accessing capital for business startups.
Now the Bank’s essay competition team has put together a great report summarizing the main ideas, insights and analysis from the more than 2,000 young people who participated (pdf) .
Participants wrote in English, French and Spanish and came from over 130 countries (with 95% of submissions from developing countries), with the largest participation from Nigeria, India, Indonesia and Kenya. They wrote about how unemployment affects a young person’s life, from leading to crime, violence and drug use, to causing depression and feelings of worthlessness. They explained that sometimes the burden of finding a job goes far beyond a young person’s individual job search; rather, the entire extended family—who has pitched in to fund their education—is now depending on them for an income, resulting in even greater stress, humiliation and guilt when the young person cannot find employment.
In terms of the causes of unemployment, a lot of youth cited the mismatch between what one learns in school or university and the needs of the labor market. A lack of entrepreneurship culture in academia and society was another sore point for many, who said the emphasis is on earning wages rather than creating wealth. Others said that jobs are often given to those coming from well-connected families, with regard to public sector positions in particular.
But youth did far from just citing problems. The essays and video were rife with optimism and practical solutions to unemployment. A huge number of participants incorporated social responsibility with innovative ideas. According to the summary report (pdf) , “youth want to create businesses that can earn a profit and create jobs for themselves and others while having a positive impact on their communities; they are keenly aware of the need to incorporate socially and environmentally responsible practices in their business plans.”
Many also insisted that entrepreneurship training should be incorporated into university curricula. The idea of returning to agriculture was a popular one; many felt that the agriculture sector has huge potential but is currently underdeveloped in their country. Another recurring idea was having small savings or tax programs: students would contribute a small amount of money for each year of study to an investment fund. At the end of their studies, the money is returned to them with allowing them to leave school with some seed money to start their own business or project.
And be sure to let us know: Do you agree with these views on the impacts, causes and solutions to unemployment? What would you add about unemployment in your country?
Photo: © Curt Carnemark / World Bank