We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.
– Franklin D. Roosevelt
The statistics on youth unemployment are disturbing. Official figures from the United Nations' International Labour Organization (ILO) estimate that close to 75 million 15 to 24-year-olds around the world are out of work. But youth inactivity – those not in work, education or training – exceeds 260 million in developing countries, according to the World Bank.
Further, many of the “employed” young are under-employed, with informal or intermittent jobs, or acting as unpaid family laborers, making it hard to gain skills and experience. With 20 million young people entering the labor force each year from Africa and Asia alone, a young person’s prospects of getting a good job are dim.
Young people have had a raw deal in the labor market for some time. Youth that experience unemployment often face a “scarring effect” – they are more likely to go through unemployment as adults and can have an earning gap as high as 20% which can persist for more than 20 years.
The Middle East and North Africa region, which has the highest unemployment rate in the world (~30%), witnessed the social and political ramifications of youth unemployment in 2011. Young people took to the streets to protest their poor employment prospects and dissatisfaction with their governments. Yet now, four years later, many of these young people still find themselves without jobs. In Tunisia, where the protests started, the youth unemployment rate remains over 30%, while in Egypt, it hovers around 40%.