Young unemployed facing difficult years

Training, youth hiring subsidies could increase employment

GENEVA (Reuters) — A lost generation of unemployed young people in developed economies, some already turning to crime and violence, could face many more difficult years ahead, the International Labour Organization (ILO) has warned.

Although world jobless totals for 15- to 24-year-olds fell slightly in 2010 from 2009 and were likely to do so again this year, this was probably because many young people were keeping out of a bleak labour market.

In European nations, the United States and other richer countries, a report from the United Nations agency said, youth unemployment both in numbers and as a proportion of jobseekers was the worst in 2010 since records were first kept in 1991.

"Heightened uncertainty in economic growth coupled with the greater sensitivity of youth rates to the business cycle means the recovery for young people is highly uncertain," said the report, Global Employment Trends for Youth: 2011.

"This could mean many more difficult years ahead for young people," it added.

Since 2009, the overall global jobless rate for the 15 to 24 age group as based on official figures has hovered around 75 million, or around 12.6 per cent of the total world population in that category, the ILO said.

Between 2008 and 2009, the years marked by the financial crisis that started in the United States and then spread, the total of jobseekers without work increased by 4.6 million over 2007 — the biggest increase since 2001.

In the previous decade, from 1997 to 2007, the average increase had been less than 100,000 per year.

A Reuters analysis this week of the discontent reflected in the growing Occupy Wall Street movement seeking radical change in the global financial system, recorded similar concerns for the future.

The sense among young people that they had been betrayed by ruling elites and by demands for someone to be made accountable for their loss of prosperity "could be with us for a long time," the analysis quoted U.S. demographer Jack Goldstone as saying.

The ILO report pointed to mass protests by young men and women this year in Spain, Greece, Italy and Britain over unemployment and wide-ranging government austerity measures aimed at tackling budget deficits by slashing social spending.

"Increased crime rates in some countries, increased drug use, moving back home with parents, depression — all of these are common consequences for a generation of youth that, at best, has become disheartened for the future, and, at worst, has become angry and violent." the agency said.

But the report saw one ray of hope in the gloom.

"Political pressure to prevent the disheartening of a 'lost generation' is likely to increase over the short term and governments may be forced to shift priorities," it said.

Sustained support through expanding social protection, long-term investment in education and training, and measures such as hiring subsidies to promote the employment of young people were needed now more than ever, it said.

Latest stories