Africa's Response to the Youth Unemployment Crisis - Regional Report

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Today’s youth have aspirations to become active citizens and to contribute to their countries’ development. They call for more rights, more opportunities and for their voices to be heard. One critical factor to making the transition into adulthood is having the right skills and opportunities to access decent work. Globally, youth aged 15 to 24 are three times more likely than adults to be out of a job. For those who do have a job, they are typically underemployed, in part-time or temporary work, and in the informal sector in poor working conditions. This global youth unemployment crisis imposes a heavy cost, both in terms of depletion of human and social capital and loss of opportunities for economic growth for present and future generations. Youth unemployment in Africa reflects this global situation but with the additional challenge of a youth population much higher than most other regions worldwide, weak national labour markets and persistently high levels of poverty. The majority of Africa’s population is under 30 years of age and the median age is just 18 years. Youth unemployment in Sub-Saharan Africa is twice that of adults (12.8 for youth and 6.5 for adults) and triples that of adults in the case of North Africa (27.1 percent for youth and 7 percent for adults).1 Unemployment is only the tip of the iceberg. African youth are more likely to be underemployed and among the working poor than the general population. The recent social uprisings of young people in North Africa are a critical reminder of the urgency for action to address young people’s rights to enter and stay in the labour market. If youth unemployment is left to persist, there is the growing risk of greater inequalities and social and economic instability across the region. Recognizing the urgency of this issue, the ILO decided to address the “Youth employment crisis” at its 101th Session of the International Labour Conference (ILC) taking place in Geneva in June 2012. To strengthen the consultation processes leading up to the ILC discussion, a series of events were organized, including a series of national events on youth employment in 40 countries across the world, and a global Youth Employment Forum in Geneva from the 23 to 25 May 2012. This regional report presents a synthesis of eleven national youth employment events that took place across Africa from March to May 2012. It highlights the region’s specific youth employment challenges and what African countries are doing to address the issues; particularly emerging good practices. It summarizes recommended strategies and actions for improving current responses. Special attention is paid to young Africans’ concerns and priorities. The report serves to contribute to African and global efforts to enable youth to gain decent work.

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