The problem of youth unemployment

There are few worse things that society can do to their young than to leave them with no prospect of a job and a purpose in life. Unemployment for the young has had devastating effects worldwide. It is quite possible that the final straw in  creation of the Arab Spring in the Middle East was the high rate of joblessness among the young, especially in Tunisia and Egypt. In Greece and Spain, protests and demonstrations are common not only because the public is unhappy with the austerity measures, but additionally because the young simply do not have much else to do except to protest against the failures of their respective governments.

The collapse of a society is not the only reason to be taking high unemployment seriously. Statistics show that those who start their careers on job-seekers allowance (a benefit for the unemployed) are more likely to have lower ages and more spells of joblessness later on in life, because they lose out on the chance to acquire skills and self-confidence in their formative years.

Yet the number of the jobless among the 15-24 year olds is growing. Figures suggest that 26 million young individuals in the developed world are currently not in employment, training or education and that number has risen by 30% since 2007. World Bank surveys suggest that 262 million young people in emerging markets are economically inactive. The reasons for this trend can be explained by the fact that the long slowdown in the West has reduced demand for labour. Secondly, in emerging economies population growth is fastest in countries with dysfunctional labour markets, like India and Egypt.

The most obvious way to tackle this problem is to reignite growth. That is easier said than done in a world dominated by debt and collapsing financial sectors. However even returning to growth would only partially solve the unemployment crisis. As mentioned earlier, countries in the Middle East already had high youth unemployment even before 2008. Spain also had that problem. The issue that seems to keep youth unemployment in a perpetual existence is the fact that employers cannot find the people with the right skills. One way to solve this is to create better communication between education and employment, for example by creating opportunities for pupils in schools to take up apprenticeships for a few months in order to improve their practical skills that would be required in the job later on in their lives. Students in higher education are already encouraged to look for internships during their time at University in order to bolster their CV by the time they graduate. However due to the fact that many undergraduate internships are unpaid, means that only the wealthy can provide their children with the opportunity to improve their chances of getting a job after graduation. The governments must look into ensuring that everyone, regardless of their background and financial status, can afford to take up apprenticeship and internship schemes suitable for their future employment.

In general, in countries with the lowest youth unemployment, governments tend to take a more active role in in finding jobs for those who are struggling. Germany, which has the second lowest youth unemployment in the developed world pays a proportion of the wages of the long term unemployed for the first two years. This encourages employers to hire low-skilled individuals and train them for the next two years till they reach a a level where the employer is happy to pay them decent wages without relying on the German government. Though this scheme can cost a lot, the benefits of having high employment among the young outweighs the costs.

The Nordic countries provide young people with personalised plans to get them into employment or training. Employers should also take measures to help individuals learn the right skills required. Thanks to technology, it is now possible to train a person through computers, which saves a lot of money for the companies.

The problem of youth unemployment has been getting worse for several years, but finally governments are taking some measures like trying to address the mismatch between education and the labour market. Companies are beginning to take responsibility for investing in the young. And technology is helping to improve education and training. It is crucial that we continue on this path of restoring a purpose in life for the young men and women. As they are the future, it is critical that we set them on the right path rather than scarring them for life with the disaster that is unemployment.

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Categories: International politics

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