One of the more pernicious aspects of this post-recession world economy is the high youth unemployment rate in many regions and countries. Fro example, in Europe, the GFC left a large proportion of 15-24 year olds in Southern Spain and Greece unemployed, sometimes at rates of nearly 60%! The trouble with such widespread youth unemployment is that it leaves a generation of new workers without the experience of work and without any feeling of engagement with society and with a lot of time on their hands.

Unfortunately, the new report by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) entitled “World Employment and Social Outlook for Youth” shows that the number of those aged 15-24 years old unemployed worldwide is almost at 20-year peak at 71 million people in this age bracket out of jobs. The last time that these sort of figures were reached was during the early 1990s when the Soviet Union had collapsed and the EU had just been founded.

Unfortunately for those youth in developing countries who might be looking at the more developed countries as an escape from unemployment, it is actually harder to find a job as a school-leaver in developed countries than it is in low- and middle-income economies. About 9.8 million youths were jobless in high-income countries last year (an unemployment rate of 14.5%, higher than the developing world’s rates). In the EU, more than a third of unemployed youth have been out of work for over a year, while in the OECD nations, the corresponding figure is 20%. Long term, large scale youth employment is a danger not just for the economy but for society. How do we teach our young to be productive members of the workforce and society if the jobs aren’t there for them?

This doesn’t mean that labour markets are rosy in developing countries though, the report states that: 

“Instead, it indicates that young people in these countries must often work, typically in poor-quality and low-paid jobs, in order to provide the basic necessities of life for themselves and their families.”

About 156 million youth in the developing world live on only USD3.10 a day. Even though it is harder to find a job in a developed nation, the jobs on offer are generally more attractive than those in the developing world. Thus, the economic migration of young people is likely to continue, perhaps causing even greater strain on the ability of the developed world to provide jobs for its young. (As a final point, many say that migration is the cure for low birth rates, at least from an economic point of view. Wouldn’t the first requirement be to ensure that your economy is able to take on large amounts of workers, ie that there are jobs for them? Largescale youth unemployment should surely be tackled first…shouldn’t it?)

Marcus Roberts is a Senior Researcher at the Maxim Institute in Auckland, New Zealand, and was co-editor of the former MercatorNet blog, Demography is Destiny. Marcus has a background in the law, both...