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Few could argue against just how difficult the last few years have been. After experiencing devastating loss, prolonged isolation, and economic disruption during the pandemic, we are in a period of unbridled inflation and unaffordability while heartbreaking wars and divisive wedge issues grip our communities. The end result can only be described as a collective burnout – the world is tired and rightfully so. It’s hard to think about the future – about future generations – when we are all just trying to make it through the moment, but we must. And particularly, we must focus on an issue which if ignored, will have immense economic and social repercussions for people of every age.
I am referring to youth unemployment and underemployment. The Prince's Trust Canada has just published Overlooked and Underprepared. Why now is the time to tackle high youth unemployment.
Let's start with the facts: according to the World Bank, youth were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and are set to experience cognitive and earning losses that they may never recover from. Even before the pandemic, employers were reporting a skills gap where candidates graduating from post-secondary education did not possess the skills employers needed. These conditions exacerbate youth unemployment, impacting employer productivity, global economies and bringing with them a host of complex social problems.
More on the Forum Network: How Can We Empower Young People to Successfully Enter Today's Workforce? Five Takeaways from the OECD’s session at the European Youth Event by Vidmantė Krušinskaitė | Finja Eilts, Members, OECD Youthwise 2023
Today's young people face the challenges of recovering from the traumatic impacts of COVID-19, dealing with increasing mental health issues, and navigating the current cost-of-living crisis. How can they successfully navigate through employment obstacles?
Youth are finding themselves struggling to make ends meet or to have faith in a bright future. The situation is only intensified for equity-deserving youth and those furthest away from the labour market who often face deep-rooted barriers that limit their access to education, job opportunities, and fair treatment in the job market. This deepens existing inequalities and perpetuates cycles of poverty and exclusion.
What is the solution? In part, governments, businesses, and social-profit organisations need to take responsibility and band together to take on youth unemployment as an urgent economic, political and social issue. We all need to come to grips with the high cost of not dealing with the silent crisis that is youth unemployment.
Here’s what we can do:
Education and Training: Governments should invest in affordable and high-quality education and training programs that give young people the skills, and especially the soft skills, employers are looking for. This includes scholarships, paid work placements, and mentorship programmes to level the playing field.
This means removing false barriers, including asking for three years of experience or advanced degrees for entry-level positions.
Fair Hiring Practices: Businesses must commit to inclusive hiring practices that welcome youth into the workplace. This means removing false barriers, including asking for three years of experience or advanced degrees for entry-level positions.
Mentorship and Support: Social-profit organisations can pivot to ensure that the programmes they offer provide valuable skills and help young people tackle challenges head-on. For instance, developing programmes that close the skills gap between high school and employers in ways that post-secondary education does not, and particularly for equity-deserving youth and those furthest away from the labour market.
Government Policies: Governments can put policies in place to encourage businesses to hire and train young people, like tax incentives and wage subsidies. They can also back up entrepreneurial ventures and start-ups for young entrepreneurs and invest in social-profits that are helping to close the skills gaps and advocate for youth.
The consequences of global youth unemployment are too serious to ignore. As we work to get through these challenging times, we should envision the future we want and make sure we are taking action to make that future a reality and that begins by addressing the issues youth are facing in the labour market and removing barriers to the success so that they, and in turn we, can thrive.
Learn more about the OECD work on Youth employment and social policies
Successful engagement of young people in the labour market and society is crucial not only for their own personal economic prospects and well-being, but also for overall economic growth and social cohesion. Investing in youth is therefore a policy priority for the OECD. Through adequate skills, employment, social and broader policy settings, young people have the opportunity to fulfil their potential and maintain confidence in their future prospects.