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YOUTH UNEMPLOYMENT

By Kyesubire Greigg

Unemployment is the situation where an individual who has reached the right working age, is able and willing to work, but is unable to find a job or gainful work despite actively searching for it. Youth unemployment is the situation where young people aged 15-35 cannot find gainful employment or viable work despite active despite seeking it over a sustained period. Since the numbers of youth are higher the adults, youth unemployment is higher in youth.

1.2 billion youth or 17% of the world’s population is between 15 and 24 years of age & 87% of them are in the UN specified age bracket that should be in school. Not all these children are in school because of different reasons but largely because of their parent’s economic inability to keep them there. Many are therefore added to the workforce earlier than is desired globally. The net effect is increased difficulty of calculating unemployment numbers therefore a difficulty in designing the right policies.

There are many complex issues causing youth unemployment and we will look at a few. The list is not conclusive and does not always cover all markets, but it will provide a base of understanding what is at stake.

  1. Skills Gaps:

A survey of 27 developed countries in 2010 showed that in 25 of them, the highest unemployment rate was among people with primary education or less yet, high education did not guarantee a decent job. Additionally, it found that in many instances female graduates were the most affected by the disparity than men. In Turkey, the number of unemployed female university graduates was more than 3 times that of their male counterparts. In Iran and the United Arab Emirates, it is nearly 3 times; and in Saudi Arabia, it is 8 times.

The disconnect between the education system and what the market needs means that the youth cannot find jobs and the employers cannot find the skilled employees they need. Many employers have positions open for long periods because they cannot find the right fit. Governments must re-evaluate the education systems and bridge the gap between academics and the market to facilitate a rise in employment.

  1. Employee regulations

Many countries have strict employee protection policies that make employers very cautious about hiring due to the difficulty of letting them go when things do not work. Additionally, many jobs within the reach of the youth are short term or project based and that leaves them without adequate protection when a company downsizes or contracts end. When their employment ends, they are not eligible for a payout so are left in a tricky financial position.

  1. A lost generation.

The unemployed youth are often called the lost generation because when they lose the ability to produce effectively, they also lose the long-term capacity to generate income. They are unable to scale their skills and increase their ability to earn income which in the long run decreases money and opportunities they can access. This leads to social exclusion from activities or sources of information that would have been useful to their growth and hinders them long-term leading to potentially higher risk of poverty.

Their families are affected by a greater economic pressure to them which affects their general sense of well-being. The prolonged job search leads to a isolation, a lower sense of joy and job satisfaction leading to a rise in mental health challenges. The result is marginalisation; economically, socially, emotionally and mentally. Many do not recover from this state of unemployment thus experience a deep sadness for lost opportunities to learn, work and earn, shame for still living at home, loss of hope and faith.


  1. Political unrest, increased public spending & emigration.

Youth unemployment has contributed to the rise in political unrest and ‘anti-social’ behaviour globally. There have been protests leading to regime changes and pushing for economic changes not only in the so-called emerging economies but right across the board. The high levels of under-employment and unemployment are said to fuel a deep discontent and sense of marginalisaiton. Even as social spending goes up in economies that provide social support, other emerging economies face the mass departure of their young people who emigrate to ‘greener pastures’. This in turn puts a strain on the economies of the countries they emigrate to.

  1. A lack of innovation.

A labour market that cannot accommodate the new generation is at risk of lower innovation because new ideas do not enter it. The youth bring in creativity, innovation and diverse thinking that is important to create viable and useful options. This thinking creates room for new designs and adaptive development that significantly improves the nations ability to thrive and rise in all walks of life. Unemployment must be resolved to maintain and enhance national economic performance.

  1. Incarceration and mortality.

Economic research has found that whereas the minimum wage was thought to help the economy, it also increases youth unemployment by delaying entry into the job market causing extremely high competition. The inability to meet daily needs and care for their families creates the thought to bridge the gap at all costs and often leads to lives of crime to supplement the difference. Once caught and imprisoned, the become unemployable and bound to the viscous cycle to crime that exposes them to the dangers of a shorter lifespan.

These may not be all the reasons for youth unemployment but by and large they are major contributors to the situation. The reality is that the youth are ill-prepared to navigate this challenging world. To help them manouver the pathways, we must establish deliberate programs and conversations that will stir hope and teach them to make choices they can stand by then help them to stay the course.

We must support our youth

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