In general, young women have more difficulty in securing decent work opportunities; in 2010, the global unemployment rate for young females was 12.9 per cent, compared with 12.5 per cent for young males. Unemployment rates for young women in the Middle East and North Africa are nearly twice as high as those of young men; almost 40 per cent of all young women in the Middle East were unemployed in 2010. By contrast, in the developed economies and the European Union and in East Asia, young men have experienced slightly higher unemployment rates than young women (International Labour Organization, 2011b, p. 10).
The very young in most countries also face difficulty in securing decent work opportunities. Unemployment rates among ethnic minorities tend to be higher. Indigenous youth and youth with disabilities often deal with multiple forms of discrimination and face major specific obstacles when seeking employment. The level of education itself can be a factor leading to unemployment depending on the economic conditions prevailing in a country. In developed countries, unemployment is higher among less educated people, while in developing countries, unemployment tends to be high among more educated youth, leading to the problem of educated unemployment (International Labour Organization, 2010, p. 21).
What young people say:
• Participants identified the most vulnerable youth as girls and young women, youth from poor families, unskilled youth and rural youth. This determination was linked to each participant’s region, such as rural or urban, as well as country and cultural context. For instance, girls and young women are frequently disadvantaged in the labour market, even if change is underway and more opportunities are opening to them. Lody, 25, shared that options for youth in the labour market of her country, Cambodia, were limited by the few industries and services of the mainly rural economy. Moreover, “Young women are doubly affected as they face not only lack of opportunities, but poor quality of work, especially in the informal segments – characterized by low wages, less secure employment, and no voice representation.” However, Youssoupha, 23, from Senegal wrote that “In the past, girls were also excluded from some jobs. But in recent years, they have been more and more favoured. So in some jobs proposals we often see "female candidates are encouraged to apply..." Overall, Youssoupha observed that those:
“…who are facing a lot of difficulties in the job market are the rural youth. First of all, they are obliged to come to town if they want to have a proper education. And then as soon as they graduate they face other problems, too. Given the fact that they can't go back home and work (no jobs there), they don't have a choice but to stay in town and fill the ranks of unemployed people.”
• Other groups of youth who were described by participants as marginalized from employment opportunities are young people without higher education as well as without connections to influential persons, including to access government contracts. Such groups were noted to likely be working in the informal sector. Roger from Ghana added that: “In rural Ghana, the poor and vulnerable people are the youth who are the most likely to be the landless or small landowners (owning less than three hectares of cropland), small-scale artisans and traders…”
• Amadou, 24, from Senegal brought participants’ attention to an often overlooked group of young people:
“The marginalized are the young people living with disabilities. They face many problems in getting access to higher education because the infrastructure is not suitable to them, especially the buildings. So, when Governments build schools or universities, they should think about people with disabilities.”
A dim outlook for youth employment
Countries continue to grapple with the effects of the global economic crisis, with many overburdened by massive debt. As a result, a growing number of Governments are implementing austerity measures to reduce public spending, including in social sectors such as employment and education. Such measures involve laying off government workers and, in many cases, shrinking or even eliminating programmes that provide educational, health-related, job placement and other support and assistance to the public, particularly low-income and marginalized persons. Yet these financial cuts are occurring at precisely the same time when so many young people and other vulnerable groups of workers are most in need of social support. Moreover, there is evidence to demonstrate that austerity programmes themselves can lead to increases in unemployment levels.
Previous economic recessions have shown that youth employment conditions recover much more slowly than resumptions of economic growth. In the 1990s, countries required an average of 11 years to restore pre-crisis lows of youth unemployment (International Labour Organization, International Institute for Labour Studies, 2010, Box 1.1). Those countries that were not able to restore pre-crisis levels took, on average, 17 years to attain a partial recovery. During recovery phases, displaced workers who found new jobs generally earned lower wages. These lessons from previous crises suggest that youth employment challenges are likely to persist for some time.