A dangerous mix of high unemployment, precarious work as well as persistently high working poverty brings the risk of creating a ‘scarred’ generation of young people. The exploding youth employment crisis begins to attract increased political attention, including the next World Youth Report. What are the facts and trends? What are strategies for intervention? We investigate trends, initiatives, policies, media and statistics to find out more.

A scarred generation of unemployed young people

Across the globe, some 90 million young people are unemployed. The International Labour Organization (ILO) has spoken widely-shared words of warning, arguing that the

“dangerous mix of high unemployment, increased inactivity and precarious work in developed countries, as well as persistently high working poverty in the developing world will leave behind a ‘scarred’ generation of young workers (source).”

The growing youth employment crisis, illustrated by selected ballpark figures from 2009 in the table at the end of this article, has been largely ignored. Since 2009, the situation has undoubtedly not changed to the better, but whether the intensity and quality of political attention and action will improve, remains to be seen.

In this context, the United Nations decided to focus the next World Youth Report primarily on youth employment. Complementary to the e–debate on youth unemployment organised by the UN Youth Unit in autumn 2011, we want to gather some of the key resources on youth employment, unemployment and employability here on youthpolicy.org. Feel free to add links to resources in the comments; we’ll regularly include them in updates of this article.

Global employment trends for youth

Global Employment Trends Youth 2011

The International Labour Organization (ILO) regularly publishes the global employment trends for youth. The two latest versions were published in August 2010 and October 2011, respectively.

In 2010, the organisation observed that

“in developed economies, the crisis has led to the highest youth unemployment rates on record, while in developing economies – where 90 per cent of the world’s youth live – the crisis threatens to exacerbates the challenges of rampant decent work deficits, adding to the number of young people who find themselves stuck in working poverty (source).”

In 2011, the authors stated that

“the situation facing youth in the labour market has not improved and that prospects for the future are not much better (source).”

Fact sheets on youth (un-)employment

In the framework of the International Year of Youth, the UN developed a series of fact-sheets, including one on youth employment, authored by the International Labour Organization, which also developed its additional own factsheet on the topic.

Global networks and initiatives

Among the most prominent initiatives and networks dealing with youth unemployment are:

Policy strategies & interventions

There are a range of documents and resources around youth employment policy interventions, among them:

National policy responses

The general context of national policy responses to the global phenomenon of youth unemployment is well described in:

Below are five examples of national policy responses across the globe, we’ll add to them as we go along:

Media coverage

The media coverage of youth unemployment seems to be intensifying. A few starting points include:

Statistical indicators on youth unemployment

The data in the table below stems from the UN Portal for the Millenium Development Goal (MDG) Indicators, a good place to start looking for current quantitative data on youth unemployment. The International Labour Organization (ILO) lists further statistical resources.

Indicators&#8594Countries↓ Youth unem­ployment rate, aged 15-24 Share of youth un­employed to youth population Share of youth un­employed to total unemployed Ratio of youth un­employment to adult unemployment rate
Australia 11.6 % 8.0 % 37.7 % 2.7 x
Brazil 17.8 % 4.7 % 45.3 % 3.1 x
Canada 15.3 % 10.0 % 28.9 % 2.2 x
Chile 22.6 % 7.5 % 30.7 % 2.9 x
France 22.6 % 9.2 % 26.7 % 3.0 x
Greece 25.8 % 8.0 % 18.9 % 3.1 x
Indonesia 22.2 % 11.2 % 53.8 % 4.9 x
Italy 25.4 % 9.1 % 23.1 % 3.9 x
Japan 9.1 % 4.0 % 15.7 % 1.9 x
Mexico 10.0 % 4.6 % 38.8 % 2.5 x
Morocco 21.9 % 6.6 % 40.9 % 3.0 x
New Zealand 16.6 % 10.2 % 45.1 % 4.1 x
Norway 9.2 % 5.4 % 40.6 % 4.2 x
Russia 18.3 % 6.5 % 26.7 % 2.7 x
South Africa 48.2 % 13.4 % 32.3 % 2.5 x
Spain 37.9 % 18.7 % 20.3 % 2.4 x
Sweden 25.0 % 12.7 % 38.3 % 4.3 x
Thailand 54.9 % 2.1 % 48.1 % 6.1 x
Turkey 25.3 % 9.8 % 32.4 % 2.2 x
UK 18.9 % 12.1 % 37.0 % 3.3 x
USA 17.6 % 10.0 % 26.3 % 2.2 x

Written by Youthpolicy Team

Youthpolicy Team

At youthpolicy.org, we are building a global evidence-base for youth policy. We are published by Youth Policy Press, a global publishing house on youth issues. We generate and consolidate knowledge and information on youth policies; critically report from and about global youth events; and more. Email us at curious@youthpolicy.org.