Representatives from governments, business sector and civil society have gathered yesterday, February 27th, at the United Nations Headquarters in New York to examine how each sector can collaborate in partnerships to address youth unemployment. This meeting was a preparatory exercise for the 2012 ECOSOC Annual Ministerial Review (AMR) to be held in early July 2012.
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The global youth unemployment rate, which has long exceeded that of other age groups, saw its largest annual increase on record in 2009; at its peak, 75.8 million young people between 15 and 24 years of age were unemployed. In 2010, the global youth unemployment rate was 12.6 per cent, dramatically overshadowing the global adult unemployment rate of 4.8 per cent. Today about 152 million young workers live in households that are below the poverty line (US$1.25 per day) comprising 24 per cent of the total working poor.
The failure to provide more and better jobs for young people is a concern for both industrialized and developing countries. In Spain and Greece the youth unemployment rate doubled between 2007 and 2011, and now stands at 46 and 42 per cent, respectively. In Puerto Rico, the rate of unemployment among youth is nearly 30 per cent, and it is about 20 per cent in Colombia. Young people are generally the first to lose their jobs in times of economic contraction and the last to find jobs when the economy rebounds. Data from Brazil and Chile shows that employment declined much more quickly among young people during economic downturns.
In 2010, the total youth unemployment rate was 25.5 per cent in the Middle East and 23.8 per cent in North Africa. Female youth unemployment in these regions was particularly striking, at 39.4 per cent in the Middle East and 34.1 per cent in North Africa.
Developing countries are home to 87 per cent of the world’s youth, who are often underemployed and working in the informal economy under poor conditions. Youth living in poverty cannot afford to be unemployed.
Non-governmental and civil society organizations, as well as youth organizations and networks can also play a critical role in this regard. National labour legislation and collective bargaining agreements are instruments which can be used to mutually reinforce equality of access and of treatment for young people in the world of work.