The youth scourge

2013-05-08 00:00

DO you think the global economy is ever going to bounce back? Sometimes it feels as though the days of wine and roses were a chimera, a dream that will never be with us again, as bad news follows bad news.

But if a time should come when it’s all over, there will be scars, damage that cannot be undone in a few months or even a few years.

A recent article in the Guardian newspaper and a feature in The Economist focused on the most important one: the damage to our youth, which may take decades to heal, if it ever does.

“Young people remain particularly stricken by the crisis. Currently, some 73,8 million young people are unemployed globally, and the economic slow-down is likely to push another half-million into unemployment by 2014.

“The youth unemployment rate, which had risen to 12,6% in 2012, is expected to increase to 12,9% by 2017. “The crisis has dramatically diminished the labour-market prospects for young people, as many experience long-term unemployment from the start of their labour-market entry, a situation that was not observed in earlier cyclical downturns,” according to the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) 2013 Global Employment Trends report.

“Currently, some 35% of all young unemployed [people] have been out of a job for six months or longer in advanced economies, up from 28,5% in 2007.

“As a consequence, an increasing number of young people have become discouraged and have left the labour market.

“Among European countries where the problem is severe, some 12,7% of all young people are neither employed nor in education or training, a rate that is almost two percentage points higher than prior to the crisis.”

It’s bad in the European Union — over half of Spain’s young people are unemployed —  but our youth unemployment figures also sit at around the 50% mark.

The ILO says: “Such long spells of unemployment and discouragement early on in a person’s career also damage long-term prospects, as professional and social skills erode and valuable on-the-job experience is not built up.”

Even if you’re lucky enough to find a job, just starting your working life in a downturn can have an impact on your future earnings. The unemployed also face reduced earnings for years. “A 26-week spell of unemployment experienced at age 22 results in persistently lower wages through the end of our simulations at age 31 … substantial wage differentials remain after many years.” (The Long-term Effects of Youth Unemployment, Thomas A, Mroz et al).

And the obstacles get bigger as time passes. Employers are not happy to take on youngsters who have not worked for extended periods, never mind those who have never had any work experience.

In April, the government signed a National Youth Employment Accord with a range of “stakeholders”, intended to make the economy more “sensitive” to employing young people, according to the government’s own news agency.

The agency quotes Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel: “We need an approach that will ensure that employers are sensitive to the employment of youth, while at the same time we do not displace older workers.”

Certain industries have agreed to set aside some jobs for youth, the public sector has agreed to take more, and a number of other commitments form part of this accord, which is designed to improve youth job prospects without raising the hackles of Cosatu, as the idea of a youth wage subsidy does.

But is it enough? I wonder. A key factor driving the global youth employment crisis is poor preparation of youth for the market, and I hope the government will single-mindedly tackle this.

“The length and depth of the labour-market crisis is worsening labour-market mismatch, contributing to extended spells of unemployment,” says the ILO report.

“New jobs often require competence that the unemployed do not possess. Such skill and occupational mismatches will make the labour market react more slowly to any acceleration in activity over the medium run, unless supporting policies to reskill and activate job seekers are enhanced.”

Germany has recognised this, developing a number of targeted schemes to train young people practically (while gaining on-the-job work experience) and integrate them into the work force. Partly as a result of this, Germany has the lowest youth unemployment figures in Europe.

I’d like to think we could do something similar. Bring back apprenticeships, for a start. Create better links between the world of work and education to ensure that our young people are being shaped for prospective jobs. Tertiary education of all sorts should include on-the-job experience. Community service that extends beyond health care would prepare graduates for the real world. Support with job searches would help. How many youngsters give up after a few months because they don’t have money for transport, for example? A world with a large cohort of frustrated young people is unpleasant and even dangerous for us all. We should all be a bit obsessive about prepping children for careers. — Fin24

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.