In effect, the manner in which a young person enters the work force influences his or her life-long employment experiences. When and how this transition occurs further impacts the well-being of that person as well as his/her relationships with family, friends, community and society.
With less experience and fewer skills than many adults, young people often encounter particular difficulty accessing work. The global youth unemployment rate, which has long exceeded that of other age groups, saw its largest annual increase on record in 2009; at its peak, 75.8 million young people were unemployed (International Labour Organization, 2011b, pp. 1-2). Even after finding work, young workers continue to confront job instability, few opportunities for skills development and advancement, and joblessness. They are more likely to be in vulnerable jobs, which can further adversely affect their future livelihood and income prospects. In fact, young people make up a disproportionate number of the world’s working poor. Data on the working poor, many of whom work in the informal economy, is limited. However, where data is available, “…youth accounted for 23.5 per cent of the total working poor, compared with only 18.6 per cent of non-poor workers” (ibid., p. 5).
The employment scenario for young people has been worsened by the lingering global economic crisis, and the current situation of youth employment poses an urgent challenge with long-term implications for both young people and society. At the same time, not since 1995 -- when Member States of the United Nations adopted the World Programme of Action for Youth to the Year 2000 and Beyond -- has there been such a spotlight directing the international community's attention to global youth issues. Young people’s employment concerns were one of the central issues highlighted during the International Year of Youth (August 2010-August 2011) [View video below. Video from the High-level Meeting of the United Nations General Assembly on Youth, 25-26 July 2011, United Nations Headquarters in New York. Thematic panel discussion II on "Challenges to youth development and opportunities for poverty eradication, employment and sustainable development"], which culminated in a High-Level Meeting of the General Assembly on Youth in July 2011. The outcome document of the High-Level Meeting clearly identifies youth employment as a critical challenge that requires an urgent response by Governments as well as the international community.
In some cases, the challenge of youth employment is driven by fears of civil unrest. There is no doubt that one of the contributing factors to the recent Arab Spring uprisings is the disturbingly high levels of youth unemployment in the Middle East and North Africa region. The total youth unemployment rate in 2010 was 25.5 per cent in the Middle East and 23.8 per cent in North Africa. Female youth unemployment in these regions was particularly striking, at 39.4 per cent in the Middle East and 34.1 per cent in North Africa (ibid., p. 10). Yet, for most stakeholders, the focus on youth employment is fundamentally shaped by such questions as: How do we and our societies create, enable and champion young people’s participation in local and global economies in a meaningful and dynamic way? How do we foster, nurture and let flourish the capabilities of each young person in our society?
This online interactive report aims to shed light on some of these complex questions. Yet it also enables young people from around the globe to share, challenge, discuss and debate: What are young people themselves doing to address these challenges? Where and how are young people succeeding in employment? What more can Governments do to help young people prepare for the transition from education to work? How can youth themselves become more active in decision-making processes, such as developing relevant curricula?