Young people from several regions echoed the research revealing that young people are disproportionately affected by employment challenges. Nikola, 24, a young man from Croatia who works with the Croatian Youth Network, wrote about his country:
“The situation is currently really bad… The overall unemployment rate has risen […since] 2008, and resulted in 283,667 registered unemployed persons. This is in a country with 4,290,612 people…Generally speaking, the youth unemployment rate rose much faster than the overall unemployment rate…you have a high number of skilled and trained people in the labour market with experience, and employers would normally first employ those people with experience rather then young inexperienced youths.”
A large number of participants expressed frustration with such growing job competition due to high unemployment, resulting in what they feel are unattainable job requirements. This was described clearly by Georgina, 25, from the United Kingdom: “The job market in the [United Kingdom] UK is becoming increasingly competitive. In the past, a Bachelor’s degree was enough to set one apart in certain employment sectors. Nowadays, young graduates are expected to possess a Master’s in addition to several years of work experience in order to obtain an entry level position.” To this, Parth, a 24-year-old male from India, added a concern shared by many participants, that those young people who are able to find a job must take it at: “an extremely low salary. Some employers are using this as an opportunity to exploit youth.”
Lody, 25, from Cambodia, shared her view of the reasons for higher unemployment among youth than adults in her country: “…lack of quality of education, […lack of] skills among students and job seekers, skills mismatch between what students have acquired in schools and the skills needed by employers, lack of networking at the workplace, poor work experience and workplace skills, etc.” These reasons were frequently cited by many other participants. Amadou, 24, from Senegal, working with AFRIC'Action, pointed out the irony of such factors given that today’s generation of young people is in fact the most educated.
The severity of young people’s precarious and insecure work situation, and the frustration it is causing, was captured by Leo, a 28-year-old from Spain:
“Currently, 20 per cent of our [total] active population is unemployed. We can blame the economic crisis, our Government, or our economic structure….youth is particularly affected. We finished our studies and we jumped into a job market full of insecurities...Jobs for young people are miserable in Spain. If you find one you are more than lucky, but then problems start:
-They want you to be young, smart, have five years of undergraduate education, a Master’s degree, three languages, four years of experience, etc…but they pay you around 850 euros per month.
-Because of the economic crisis, companies try to reduce costs and increase productivity at the same time. Productivity is transformed into stress [for] the employee. The employee [is] constantly afraid because of the threat of losing her/his job.
-Contracts are very restrictive – normally, [there are] six to 12 months on probation. Within that time the employer can fire anyone without giving more explanation than: ‘your services are not required anymore in order to fulfil our objectives.’ Young people have this kind of contract and that’s the reason why they cannot even pay for their own houses, because banks don’t give loans if you have unstable contracts.
-So, when one almost reaches the end of the probation period…Surprise!!!!! You are fired…”
Contributors from developing countries, and in particular from Africa, mentioned that corruption and preferential family and political connections pose a disadvantage to most youth, as only those people who are well placed in society appear to have access to decent jobs. Walter, 18, from Lagos, Nigeria believes that: “In Nigeria, the main cause of unemployment is corruption, which is having a negative effect on virtually all sectors in my country.” Similarly, Thulani from Zimbabwe expressed: “It is a very unfortunate situation that those who benefit are those who have political connections with dominant political parties.”
Although Anna, 30, from Kenya, found that the government sector offered better working conditions to youth than the private sector, she appealed for more action on the parts of both Government and youth to improve the youth employment situation:
“Young people in the labour market in Kenya is a critical issue. Young people are exploited and subjected to very harsh working conditions, poor pay, and too large work loads. Sometime I feel pity, yet […there is] nothing I can do about it, most companies are foreign owned and private. The government side, as much as people criticize, I would testify that it offers better packages to young people, and even job security, and the working environment is favourable. It’s in this spirit that we encourage the Government to open up more opportunities for young people in order for the private sector to wake up to the call. My other concern is that we young people should come out of comfort zones and start fighting for our space in all sectors of our respective countries. Rather than sit back and cry foul at our…States and Governments, we should shape our future, get into leadership positions and influence policies and decision-making organs directly.”
This call was echoed by Shayla, 25, of the United States, who urged: “Youth not only need an opportunity to train to be better leaders, but also the opportunity to be leaders.”
Participants expressed mixed views on labour migration, both internal – which, in most cases, is rural to urban – and international. Many young people viewed migration as a source of opportunity and hope, representing the “pull factors.” Several experiences showed that migration can indeed lead to improved job prospects.
Internal migration is typically associated with the growth of cities and industries that is representative of national economic growth and development. Increased agricultural productivity generally reduces reliance on the agricultural sector and gives way to greater investment in and expansion of the industrial sector, which tends to be concentrated in urban areas. Therefore, although it does not always lead to decent work, rural to urban migration can be an indicator of healthy economic growth. One participant shared that those with education and skills in rural Kenya seek jobs in cities such as Nairobi and Mombasa where, in comparison to villages, resources and incomes are better and opportunities are easily available.
International migration tended to be viewed by participants as a potential solution to the effects of the economic crisis on employment. Leo, 28, from Spain wrote of his views on international migration:
“We, the youth, we are losing the hope. We try to blame others expecting that one day everything will be fine, that one day someone will knock on our door offering us the job of our dreams…but why do we have to wait??? We need to innovate, to risk, to create, to search…why not in another country, for example?”
At the same time, participants tended to highlight the “push” factors of internal and international migration, representing the poor conditions in young people’s places of origin that lead them to consider migrating for work. They expressed concern for the long-term impacts of migration on such places of origin, which risk persistent under-development. Emad, 28, from Egypt, working with Etijah, Youth & Development Consultancy Institute, illustrated these issues with particular reference to rural areas: “I grew up in a small village in the south of Egypt. When I graduated from university, I found that job opportunities were so limited and that most of the well-educated graduates leave to the Arabian Gulf countries, to big cities or to Cairo, which in turn keeps the rural regions less developed and affects the quality of life.”
Sebastian from Romania conveyed a similar message regarding emigration from his country:
“Take for example Romania, where I live. It is a country where young people cannot easily settle for a job…because the country has no good policy for youth employment. There are not enough economic reasons for the young to settle in the country (salaries are too low to make a living or to finance a family), and thus they tend to go abroad for low-level, non-professional jobs that give them a better life/economic expectations. I think the Government should [develop…] policies that reward young people who start careers in their home locations, and they also should be motivated for local development. No one wants to leave home, and that is why those who get the chance to be motivated at work, not only – but at least – with money (to have a decent living), will remain and help with local development, which will lead to national development and so on.”
Other participants mentioned the difficulty they, or someone they know, were facing abroad. For instance, some young migrants have had to accept jobs with low salaries and for which they were overqualified because their university degrees were not accepted in the host country. Joseph from Latvia also pointed to the effects of migration on families:
My brother and his family migrated to [the United Kingdom] UK and now they have found a ‘normal life’…Now I see them not more than once a year. But I am happy for them.”
“Brain-drain” is also a concern for youth, for example the rural to urban migration from the Out Islands to the capital city/island in the Bahamas and externally to larger countries. The issues was also identified in Nepal, about which Ashesh wrote: “In a poor economy like Nepal, there is an acute shortage of skilled youths…Unemployment of the skilled ones is pushing them to the long queues in front of every manpower consultancy to seek jobs in foreign countries.”
Positive signs for youth employment
Despite the largely negative employment landscape portrayed by participants, there were some flickers of hope. Lody, 25, from Cambodia, shared what her job meant to her:
“I have been employed with good working conditions and a decent wage. My family’s living conditions are also rising. My job has changed my life, and I try my best to overcome and struggle through any challenges facing me and my family. Those challenges are high food prices, a high cost of living…and a sustainable livelihood.”
However, Lody continued on to express that her: “job is somehow not secure at all, and I need to be well prepared for another job whenever I am told I will be redundant... The labour market is very competitive, so we need to earn more experience and degrees to adapt to the requirements.”
Some participants pointed to governmental or civil society programmes designed to improve young people’s employment opportunities. Ayshah, 26, wrote about her town in the coastal region of Kenya, where young people are accessing organizations that provide skills training and volunteering assignments. “…Young people are engaging themselves in forming groups that will enable them…to identify job opportunities in the community... We are advocating for young people to be job creators and not job seekers.”
Emad, 28, from Egypt cited the recent political uprising in his country to illustrate the importance of good governance to youth empowerment:
“The revolution in Egypt, that is led by frustrated but hopeful youth, is stimulated by a long history of failure to solve the unemployment problem, corruption and human rights violations. We revolt with a hope that once we have a good governance system, Egypt will attract more investments and jobs…There is a strong connection between security and economic and social empowerment, with a young generation understanding that close relationship and fighting for securing both.”