According to the United Nations' International Labor Organization (ILO),
more than 75 million people around the world between the ages of 15 and
24 are now without work -- an increase of nearly 4 million since the
global financial crisis began in 2007. More than 6 million of them have
given up on finding a job.
The difficulties that young people are facing reflect the weak state of
labor markets. But Matthieu Cognac, a youth employment specialist with
the ILO in Bangkok, tells RFE/RL that young people in particular are
being left behind, since they're three times more likely to be
unemployed than their elders.
"Young people are the ones who suffer more than others from
discrimination," Cognac says. "In times of economic growth, they are
usually the last in or the last hired. However, in times of crisis, they
are also the first ones to be fired or they are the first out."
In the European Union, one in five people under 25 willing to work
cannot find a job. Many more young people are being pushed into
part-time work contracts or into the informal economy. Unemployment is particularly acute in Spain and Greece, where half of
high school and college graduates ready to work are coming up
Prospects for work also remain dim in swaths of the Asia-Pacific region,
home to the world's largest youth population. One-in-6 young people is
unemployed in Taiwan and the Philippines, while the ratio is 1-in-5 in
Indonesia. The worst-off region is the Middle East and North Africa,
where approximately 1-in-4 young people is without a job.
However, Cognac says that working poverty continues to be the main challenge facing the developing world.
"The key focus in Europe is job creation," Cognac says. "There are not
enough jobs out there. The key focus in developing Asia is also creating
jobs, but it is really a focus on the quality of those jobs because of
the lack of social protection and the lack of social safety nets. Young
people simply do not have any other option than to work in conditions of
More Trouble Ahead
With some 40 million young people entering the workforce every year,
labor-market experts and company bosses say the world is sitting on an
economic and social time bomb.
Untapped youth potential is especially crucial in countries where the
population is aging. In such places, a trend of fewer working young
people translates into lower tax revenues to meet ballooning social
costs. Those unemployed for a long time are less employable and earn less throughout their working lives.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) says
long-term unemployment is associated with "elevated risks of poverty,
ill health, and school failure for the children of the affected
Growing resentment and mistrust among young people can also foster
social unrest. That was the case in the wave of Arab Spring protests
that swept across North Africa and the Middle East in early 2011. More recently, severe austerity measures coupled with slow economic growth have fomented unrest in Southern Europe.