Our Readers' Opinions
August 27, 2010
The challenge of youth employment – Part 2

By Maxwell Haywood Fri, Aug 27, 2010

In my previous article, I described the impact of youth unemployment on young people and society. In order to address the impact, it is essential to identify the factors that generate youth unemployment. Moreover, strategies are needed to transform the unemployment situation facing youth.{{more}}

Factors of youth unemployment

Young people are unemployed for various reasons. It could be due to disability, discrimination, criminal record, and inexperience. Many youths do not own financial capital to create their employment. Many young persons do not have access to the relevant networks that can help them to locate decent job opportunities. Also, youth unemployment could be due to the poor educational and skill level of young persons. Closely related to this are the rapid changes in science and technology which require constant upgrade of knowledge, skills and attitudes. Furthermore, there are those who are attending school and not actively seeking employment. And there are those who have given up looking for work because they have become discouraged after seeking work for a long time without success. Those in this category are mainly neither in school nor at work. Another major factor is the outlook and will of the political forces which govern the society.

For a large segment of youth, the state of the economy is a major factor. Even when they are armed with degrees, diplomas, and certificates, they are not able to find decent jobs in a weak economy. The strength of the economy could be measured by the extent of labor demand. When the economy is not vibrant it is reflected in the lack of readiness and weak capacity of employers to hire workers. Economic growth is, therefore, important for creating jobs.

Before the current global economic crisis, youth unemployment rates were already high. Now, the situation is not made better by the global economic crisis, which exploded in 2008. National economies and labor markets around the world have been hit hard by the global economic crisis. Since the crisis started, millions of young people have been unemployed.

Strategic actions for youth employment

What is really needed is a systematic approach from the global to the community level to fundamentally address the situation. I will recommend that government, in collaboration with the private sector, cooperatives, and civil society organizations, should create a national human resources development strategy which will provide a comprehensive approach to employment issues. It should be complemented by an integrated national youth policy and a well established labor market information system.

The society must set the goal of full employment in a serious way. Generally, societies would declare and proclaim the goal of full employment only to immediately after divert attention away from it. Political will accompanied with adequate resources is essential. Awareness and consensus of the population and its organized sectors are critical to the success of intervention programmes.

Tackling youth unemployment requires a high level of cooperation, and coordination among the various sectors such as the government, private sector, cooperatives, civil society organizations, and young people. A genuine partnership among these sectors is a pre-requisite for effectively and efficiently addressing youth unemployment. Without this, the youth employment programmes are doomed to fail. Together, these sectors must facilitate and engage in policy formulation and implementation, continuous monitoring and evaluation, and reframing of youth employment strategies. There can be no room for complacency and business as usual!

To deal with discrimination against various categories of youth, it is important to carry out awareness-raising programmes and enforcement of anti-discrimination legislation. Similarly, special programmes are needed to re-integrate the long-term unemployed youth into the labor market. These special programmes must target those who have become discouraged and have given up looking for employment.

Education and training strategies must be strengthened, especially in these times of economic downturn and recession so that when the economy picks up again, young people seeking work will be prepared and empowered to drive the economy forward to higher heights. Young people must possess the educational qualifications suitable to the labor market. Vocational training programmes must be constantly enhanced to make them more comprehensive and relevant, and to enable them to reach all the young people who need them.

Young people need help to experience a smooth transition from school to the world of work. They should be exposed to knowledge about the value of work and the rights and responsibilities of workers. This along with internships and student and youth summer work programmes could be good instruments in empowering young people to make better use of employment opportunities. Needed also are effective social support systems such as labor market services, including counseling, advisory services and job search assistance; child care; health care; and income support.

Emphasis has to be placed on stimulating labor demand and job creation. If this is not done, all the good efforts in education and training and other labor market initiatives would go to waste. It is important to stimulate business development that could provide decent jobs by producing quality goods and services for the community, national, sub-regional, regional, and global markets. Incentives will have to be provided to the private sector in order to get their full participation and support. Consideration should be given to creating employment in labor- intensive areas such as creative industries, conservation and management of natural resources, tourism, sustainable development of social and physical infrastructure, and more. In all of this, attention should be paid to the quality of jobs created in terms of the fundamental rights of workers, especially labor standards and social protection.

Youth entrepreneurship talent should be stimulated, recognized and given the necessary support to develop.

Importantly, strategies for youth employment must address the international economy, including the current global economic crisis. Global economic recovery is vital for job creation. In this process, it is necessary for the international economy to truly respect the rights of financially poor countries to develop. This means that space must be created for developing countries to enhance their economic productive capacity without having to carry the burden of the unequal relations built into the global economy. These unequal relations prevent economically weaker countries from developing at a pace that will fully utilize all those who are seeking work and are able to work. The rules of the economic globalization process do not make it easy for many developing countries to develop their productive capacity quickly. This must change.