In the last decade, policy attention to better develop the knowledge and skills of the workforce has increased for several reasons. First, global youth unemployment rates, three times higher than the unemployment rate for those over 25 years old, have raised concerns about social stability as well as sustained and long-term economic growth. Second, many who argue that youth unemployment is partially caused by a mismatch between graduates’ skills and the skills that employers need, also believe that revitalizing vocational education and training can help address the problem. Third, a skilled workforce that can easily adapt to technological change is likely a fundamental component for countries to remain competitive in the global economy.
For China, the minimum wage is a useful tool to reduce wage and income inequality, and in recent years, the minimum wage has risen rapidly in many provinces. We recently asked Shi Li (Professor of Economics, School of Economics and Business, Beijing Normal University) about the economic impact of the higher minimum wages. He cautions that enforcement was lax until 2009 and the results of the initial studies are inconsistent and sometimes contradictory.
In an interview on TN TV Channel, Argentina in November 2013 Pope Francis said that, “Today we are living in an unjust international system in which ‘King Money’ is at the center.” He continued, “It is a throwaway culture that discards young people as well as its older people. In some European countries, without mentioning names, there is youth unemployment of 40 percent and higher.”
It seems Pope Francis has heard the rallying calls from youth around the world.
In 2010, youth in Mozambique staged protests in Maputo and Matola against rising food prices.
The ‘Geração à Rasca’ (Scraping-by Generation) of Portugal took to the streets in March 2011 as a spontaneous Facebook event to call attention to underemployment, lack of social protection, and unemployment that many experience.
Youth protests flared in Sao Paulo, Brazil in June and September of 2013 in reaction to high unemployment, low-paying jobs, inflation, and the high cost of living in big cities.
And just a month ago, around 2,000 unemployed Moroccans marched through their capital in January 2014 to demand jobs, a particularly thorny problem for university graduates.
The more famous protests of Arab Spring, the Occupy Movement and the Gezi Park protests in Turkey were also spurred, in part, by young people.
At the Global Voices on Poverty discussion on ending poverty during the World Bank-Fund Spring Meetings, Muhammad Yunus talked about the pressing need to engage young people and leverage their creative capacity in order to end poverty. He noted that young people are a completely different force that could be engaged on larger social issues – e.g., reforesting a country like Haiti – and that this could be accomplished via social business funds.
Given the recent gloom on youth unemployment, could social entrepreneurship be a silver lining? Certainly the global challenges are many and large. But so are the youth populations in many countries. Instead of reaping the demographic dividends, many countries fear future instability owing to the very large youth bulge. The Economist, in a recent article “Youth unemployment: Generation jobless,” calculates that all told, almost 290,000,000 (almost a quarter of the planet’s youth) are neither working nor studying.
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
“Attention in the development sector has shifted sharply towards two areas over the past couple of years: youth and employment. While the huge increase in some countries' 15-24 year old population offers an opportunity for catalysing change and bringing in fresh ideas and new energy, many are grappling with the challenge of providing young people with meaningful work opportunities and concerned about the growing number of youth who are disillusioned about their futures.
The ILO reported that 74.8 million youth between 15 and 24 years were unemployed in 2011, an increase of more than 4 million since 2007. Globally, the youth unemployment rate is almost 13%, and youth are nearly three times as likely as adults to be unemployed. In some countries there are no jobs. In others, there is a skills mismatch and with some quality soft and hard skills training and support, young people could be ready for existing, unfilled jobs.” READ MORE
In the 2010 World Bank essay competition, young people around the world were invited to submit essays and videos responding to the following questions: