Young people want to work, but where are the jobs?


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 Young people have been disproportionately hit by the economic downturn. Youth are just 25 percent of the global workforce but they may comprise up to 40 percent of the unemployed. And unemployed youth are more likely to live in poverty or be at-risk for crime. This was our focus Thursday in a session called "Jumpstarting Jobs".

This is a tough challenge for any country, rich or poor, but we do have some of the answers. We need to get children on the right track from the very beginning. It starts with investing in pregnancy with healthy mothers, proper nutrition for infants in the critical window of the first 2 years of life, and early childhood development programs for cognitive stimulation. Ninety percent of our brain development takes place before age 6, so if we don't invest properly in these early years, the damage may be irreparable. 

Then of course we need to make sure kids are not just able to go to school, but are getting a quality education. That means not just reading, writing and math but also developing relevant skills for today's job market, like critical thinking, teamwork and leadership skills. Our new Stepping Up Skills (STEP) framework lays this out clearly.

In my own country, Turkey, we see that declining levels of women are in the workforce. Much of this is due to low levels of girls' education, which means they can only find low-level work, and often that doesn't pay enough to cover the cost of child care - so they drop out of the job market altogether.

I was struck by something the Serbian Deputy Prime Minister said. When he visited Silicon Valley to woo potential investors to his country, they said their biggest needs were not government incentives but rather people who know how to innovate, can speak English and other languages, and have a strong work ethic. And that a key part of the equation is having a meritocracy - so everyone feels their ideas matter and they strive for excellence.

Also, as he said, we need to remember that a job is more than just an income for people - it can also be a social network, a source of social protection, and a source of pride and human development.

Video: Open Forum Session 2: Jumpstarting Jobs video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player


Tamar Manuelyan Atinc

Senior Non-resident Fellow, Brookings Institution

Join the Conversation

Jeff Mowatt
October 10, 2010

That's how we describe what we do to leverage investment into communities. Over the last 11 years this has focussed on Eastern Europe and begins with sourcing a microfinance based development initiative in Tomsk, Siberia.

In Tomsk, the outcome was around 10,000 microenterprises and an overall first year business survival rate of 99%

People-Centered Economic Development means that progress in measured in human terms, with people and their needs at the centre of enterprise development. It is driven by a business model which re-invests profit into community and social purpose.

For the link associated with my name above, I've given a social network which has the specific aim of raising awareness of the purpose driven businsess which includes B-Corps, Grameen Social Business, L3Cs and the UK Community Interest Company model.

Jeff Mowatt

Musoke kibuuka
October 09, 2010

This is one of the major challenges of our century, the scarcity amidst plenty.If Employment is one of the drivers out of poverty , with exceeding potential of opportunities that are untapped, one wonders where the missing link actually is.

Education has for generations focused on labour replacement, right from the colonial times when the administrative manpower for many african economies was passed on to africans. Over the generations the african education system has continued to focus on generating job seekers rather than creators. The result is a generation of people who are overschooled but uneducated.Overskewed skills chasing after very few jobs.

Reversing this trend requires a multi-pronged approach. focusing on the elements earlier identified may help to address the future , what about the current ,how do we care for those still in schools , what about those out of schooling age, how can we create an alternative path to employment(i.e. self employment), how can we align the poverty reduction strategies to sustained employment generation.

If the strikes that resulted from last years food crisis in many african states is someting to go by, we risk to loose the macroeconomic fundamentals developed due to strikes and unrest.

The Good news is that the problem has attained global representation as a social concern, the world need to look at youth unemployment with the exact magnitude as the HIV/AIDS challenge if we are to safeguard our future.

Cindy Gallop
October 09, 2010

Absolutely. This is one of the things my startup venture is committed to tackling (we are a radically simple web-meets-world platform designed to turn good intentions into action, one microaction at a time). Am particularly conscious of this having just returned from 10 days in South Africa - we are not just a crowdsourced platform but a crowdsourced venture, and at only 7 months old in beta, our global operation is driven by where our users find us and suggest we help. I'd love to connect with anyone else working on the ground to tackle the beginnings of this problem, where we can help turn what's needed into microactions and networked action to change this for the better.

Cindy Gallop
Founder & CEO

October 11, 2010

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