Youth unemployment in the world today

December 8, 2014 OPINION/NEWS




Anant Mishra

Problem statement

With alarming rates of decline in economic progress in most previously prominent and currently developing nations being witnessed today, unemployment rates in general have reached an all time high. The rate of youths being unemployed though has skyrocketed to a frightening level for policy makers all over the globe.

The youth constitute an integral part of today’s world population and their ineffectiveness in contributing to the economic progress of their country is a major concern. Almost 12.7% on average of the youth of countries today are unemployed. This is due to various other factors besides economic slowdown. The labour market in general has gone haywire, the lack of education & skill set development is lacking especially in developing nations and the simple desire to work is diminishing among the youth of once economically stable countries.



“There is no sadder thing than a young pessimist” – Mark Twain

The youth, for any country, are considered to be the torch bearers for progress. With them, a hope to reach glorious heights is ignited. If these young people are left stranded among turbulent economic conditions with little scope of free entrepreneurial, innovative thinking and complete deficiency of opportunity, they are bound to doom. In the global front, economies are at the precipice of complete decline which leaves the youth in a more dangerous situation. The horrifying figure of 75 million young people across the world are currently unemployed. This is a result of flawed policies, lack in structural changes of economies and an ignorance by governments and the general population which, if not corrected at the earliest, can become an unforgivable mistake. The current crisis of this problem can be attributed to two major reasons. One, the prolonged Western economic slowdown which has seriously reduced demands for labour, and second being the constant population boom in promising yet fickle labour markets of a number of developing countries.

This saddening decline in economic growth in the western world has further added to the already long list of persisting problems of developing nations all over the world, making it a reason for worry for policy makers, governments and the general population worldwide. The belligerence and bellicose attitudes of the young unemployed are already being witnessed in the streets of the Middle East as well as in the rise of violent crimes in previously economically stable countries (such as Italy, Spain, etc) due to their shockingly high rates of youth unemployment. It is also surprising that the young who are well educated and equipped with the knowledge of the latest updates on just about everything are economically inactive.

Low and insignificant proportions of growth in economies, clogged and unfavourable labour markets and the missing link between education & work seem to be the biggest hindrances to countries facing this crisis. The ILO has been extensively working closely with several nations by trying to guide and facilitate the process of bridging the gap between labour markets, policies and quality of education. Few nations too are adopting models that would help accelerate economic growth, create more opportunities and form a conducive, cooperative liaison between education and employment. Organizations such as the ILO, OECD are working extensively now towards creating a more youth friendly economic situation that ensures growth, political peace and as a whole a fertile lifeline for the world economy to rise upon.


World economic slowdown

The 2008 Recession that plagued one of the most economically sound countries (USA), had already started the vicious cycle of youth unemployment which has now been further fastened due to the major economic sovereign debt crisis presently affecting the Euro Zone (EU). The financial slowdown in these economies has caused a dangerous amount of condensation in the faith of risk measurement abilities of the labour markets.  This can be ascribed to the prevalent differences in work contracts causing the serious rise by 5.4% in youth unemployment throughout major European countries. Firms are uncertain about investing in the young with no previous job experience leaving these inexperienced young to enter a state of prolonged unemployment. Old employees are observed to be beneficiaries to binding contracts guaranteeing them the cushioning effect from the present volatile labour market situation.

What must also not be ignored is that, even if these individuals lose their jobs at older ages, the luxury of choosing to retire than being categorized as unemployed can be afforded by them due to the blessing of opportunities that they received in the past allowing them to build sufficiently stable monetary resources from their careers. Hence, the rigidity of labour markets, lower demand mainly affects inflows to the labour market which clearly connotes that the younger potential work force is being affected most by the current unfavourable economic situation worldwide.



The policy of a nation can be attributed to be the antidote to effectively counter any form of crisis. As observed currently in nations, especially those affected by the problem of economic slowdown, has formulated policies which although prove to be a solvent in meeting the problem, is short term in its approach.   For instance, in Europe currently, decrease in governmental spending and high taxation measures that are being adopted, in reality have the dangerous potential to further worsen the unemployment crisis being faced in most European nations. Although expansionary monetary policy in the short run is more likely to decrease interest rates that will lead to the automatic increase in output which would in turn reduce unemployment but what cannot be ignored is that even though the above is the most expected probable reaction, these policies comprise of an inflationary risk. Inflation, as history has taught us in a harsh but everlasting manner, would lead to disappearance in the positive employment trend in the longer run further adding to the international community’s worries.  Hence the focus of policy makers should not only be on countering this virus for the time being but they must envisage policies that would keep the labour market in a protective shell for a long time.  Monetary and fiscal policies should be more realistic and permanent in its approach and educational investments also should find prominence in order to tackle this ill more efficaciously.


Importance of educational reforms

Education is regarded as the one tool which leads to economic and social empowerment of any individual. It acts as a weapon for survival in the competitive world that we live in today, as it determines our course of action and the glorious future that every one dreams of. The rigid educational systems that focuses primarily only on academic excellence rather than holistic development with less regard to skill set education are especially observed in the reigning systems of developing countries. Policy makers now must realize that issues of youth unemployment are not only affected by shaky labour markets but also the deficiency of essential skills in the majority of the youth today. Vocational training must be given a symbolic prominence in the defences adopted by nations to curb this problem. This would help assure resolutely the inexperienced youth a chance of gaining employment.


Social, economic & cultural implications

As observed, one of the root causes of youth unemployment arising is low macroeconomic performance in general.  Depleted levels of growth and economic progress currently have affected the general population of countries as a whole but with some groups like that of the youth suffering the most. This can be connected to the cyclical volatility of youth unemployment trends in general mainly due to weak and inefficient employment guaranteeing laws and the unwillingness of firms to invest in the training of young and potential labour.  Due to constant disappointments met by the youth in terms of gaining employment, skills tend to become obsolete because of not utilizing them further making the potential young employee incompetent to meet the requirements of the desired job.  Since the groups of unemployed youth majorly consist of those coming from dysfunctional familial backgrounds, being high school drop outs or those who have been severely exposed to down trodden living conditions due to their inability in acquiring a means of employment resort to participating in criminal activities or drug abuse (as observed in regions like Latin America and Europe).  This also leads to a domino effect in producing income disparities, inaccessibility to basic public benefits, social and ethnic disparities, all acting as conductors to the vicious onslaught of civil tensions.


Regions mainly affected by the issue of youth unemployment


Countries in the European continent, thanks to the current attack of economic slowdown faced by them are all falling prey to the worry of experiencing high youth unemployment rates.  Those part of the European Union (EU) are in a rather difficult state of economic tension surrounding them making unemployment in general occur excessively. The youth, due to the onset of such unfavourable turn of events are left dismayed with no monetary support to bank on leaving them vulnerable to the risk of resorting to criminal and other non-state activities.  Furthermore, European nations provide much of the opportunities for developing economies to outsource labour which due to the prevailing situation is not happening causing a ripple effect of decline in economic progress in these economies as well. The events taking place in this region is also having serious implications on the question of youth employment in developing nations as well.


The African continent

A continent consisting of countries with an abundance of natural resources and a great amount of robust human resources, having so much to offer regionally and globally is caught in the malicious whirlwind of ongoing political tensions, poor social & economic conditions of populations, the presence of fragile judicial institutions with skyrocketing rates of corruption, causing economic growth for being hindered largely. Youth are unemployed in huge numbers too difficult to be blissfully ignored which is dangerous not only for the region specifically but also for global economic progress. With so much potential and promise being clearly evident in this region, African nations are expected to take a serious call on how to protect their youth from all the disruptions revolving around them (i.e. political, social, cultural) and give them a chance to rise and make optimum use of their potentiality to be important players in the sphere of facilitating the process of economic development.


Developing economies in the regions of Latin America and Asia

 The currently categorized “developing” economies in the Latin American and Asian region are also being terribly harassed by this issue of their youth being largely unemployed. The effects of this problem are felt at a larger scale in the countries belonging to these regions due to the large population of youth being present. Tackling this issue should be classified as a priority in these nations if they aspire to be on the verge of transition from developing to developed economies. Developing nations must strive to make their economies (with regard to labour markets) more youth friendly in nature. They must extensively collaborate with the developed nations now facing economic turmoil as these nations are major contributors to boosting economic progress in developing nations providing with a well disposed atmosphere for allowing employment to happen.


Proposed solutions  

  1. Countries must allow structural changes in the ways which their economies function with special attention drawn towards policy changes which would provide established grounds for implementing long term solutions.

  2. High academic quality of education coupled with concentration on the need for development of vocational and “soft” skills for equipping the youth to meet the requirements needed for acquiring jobs.

  3. Laws pertaining to minimum wage of labour, labour contracts must be further scrutinized and its implementation strengthened in order to encourage the youth to seek employment.

  4. Accessibility to basic public services and other benefits which are essential for ensuring productivity in young individuals must be focused on by governments especially those who are facing precarious political situations.







Anant Mishra

Anant Mishra is a former youth representative for United Nations. Almost 4 years of experience, he has served in number of committees including United Nations Conference for Trade and Development and United Nations General Assembly primarily focusing on international trade, education, finance, economics. food crisis And disputes. He is available on [email protected]


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