Those of us working in youth economic opportunities have been reading about the increasingly alarming statistics on youth unemployment and underemployment. The headlines talk about the “global unemployment crisis facing youth” and articles warn of the “tsunami of youth unemployment” and its “scarring” effects. (1) Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi once told European trade leaders “Youth unemployment is a time bomb.” (2) Is this exaggeration or an appropriate forecast of what’s to come? Here are some facts:
- 75 million young people in the developing world are unemployed and hundreds of millions more are underemployed
- Every year, 20 million young people enter the labour force in Africa and Asia alone
- In the Middle East and North Africa, 80 percent of young workers work in the informal sector
- Youth are three times more likely than adults to be unemployed
- One in four young people cannot find work for more than US$1.25 a day. (3)
Yet global economic growth and poverty reduction over the next 15 years will have to be driven by today’s youth. How do we address these staggering numbers to support this population bulge in becoming economic drivers of success for tomorrow?