‘Bad luck’ generation will be blighted by youth unemployment for several years
International Labour Office report says nearly 50% of young people are without work in many countries around the world
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 19 October 2011 18.53 BST
A “bad luck generation” of young people scarred by soaring unemployment faces difficult years ahead and may resort to violence to vent its anger at governments worldwide, a new report warns.
The International Labour Office says riots of the kind seen in Britain this summer are likely to recur as many young people give up looking for work altogether, leaving the “hidden” youth unemployment level even higher than official figures suggest. As many as one in two young people are without work in some countries, the report into youth unemployment around the world says.
The ILO predicts the number of unemployed 15-24-year-olds will stand at 74.6 million, or a rate of 12.6% for 2011. That is down slightly from 12.7%, or 75.1 million, in 2010 but the report attributes this more to young people opting out of the labour market, rather than looking for jobs. It said that pattern was especially true in developed economies and the European Union and unlikely to improve soon.
“A lot of these young people are simply giving up and they are saying ‘enough is enough. What is the point of looking if there’s nothing out there?'” said Sara Elder, ILO economist and the report’s author. They are sometimes re-entering education but often living with, and off, family. “These people are delaying their advance into adulthood. It’s a very scary time for young people, they find the path that worked for their parents is not working for them.”
She predicts that when those young people do eventually go back into the labour market, unemployment rates will rise again and probably stay high. “The longer they stay out of the labour market, the more difficult it will be,” argues Elder.
The report warns that consequences around the world could be dire.
“Increased crime rates in some countries, increased drug use, moving back home with the parents, depression – all of these are common consequences for a generation of youth that, at best, has become disheartened about the future, and, at worst, has become angry and violent,” it says.
The ILO – a United Nations agency – uses the Arab Spring uprisings to demonstrate a link between unemployment and the entrenchment of distrust of the political and economic system. It notes that in the Middle East and North Africa, for example, over the past 20 years approximately one in four youth have been unemployed.
It also draws links to unrest in Europe, including riots in the UK.
Elder hopes the protests will spark political action to create new jobs by focussing on getting economic growth going.
“I do think we are going to see more and more unrest and hopefully the political pressure will lead to change,” she says.
The ILO says that in 56 countries for which comparable data was available, there were 2.6 million fewer youth in the labour market in 2010 than expected based on pre-crisis trends. “This figure implies that growing frustration over unemployment and underemployment has pushed a large cohort of discouraged youth to drop out of the labour market altogether.”
It highlights Ireland, where almost one in two young people is out of work, adjusting youth unemployment to account for the drop in labour force participation.
In other words, the youth unemployment rate stood at 27.5% in 2010 but could have been more than 19.3 percentage points higher if those who were either “hiding out” in the education system or waiting at home for prospects to improve, were included in the analysis. In Spain, the rate is even higher at just over 50%.
As a consequence, many young people are choosing to leave home and search elsewhere. In 2009 the number of under-25s emigrating from Ireland hit 30,000, almost double the 15,600 leaving in 2004, according to the National Youth Council.
Elder stresses that for those disheartened in the jobs hunt it is vital they do not disappear altogether.
“We are trying to tell our young people, it’s scary, it’s frustrating but if they really want to help themselves they must maintain some kind of attachment to the system, such as work experience or volunteering, because the important thing is to make contacts.”
For those in poorer countries it appears not working at all is not an option and many young people are “trapped in a vicious cycle of working poverty,” the ILO says.
“The high employment-to-population ratios of youth in the poorest regions reflect the fact that the poor must work. But working does not mean having a decent job. Rather, the majority of young people in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa and other low-income regions are trying to make a living at whatever job they can find, most often working long hours under poor conditions in the informal economy,” the report says.