The Challenges of Youth Employment

Elizabeth Tinoco is the International Labour Organisation’s Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean. This paper is a contribution to the EU-­LAC Foundation’s Newsletter edition of March 2015 dedicated to the theme Youth Employment. The translation of this document was carried out by the EU-LAC Foundation. The original version in Spanish can be consulted here:

The employment situation of young people poses a political challenge on a global level, as young people’s desires to work and build a life apart from their jobs conflict with the realities of a labour market in which they must deal with high unemployment and informality.

In recent years, the ILO has intensified its efforts in the understanding and diagnosis of, and policy proposals for the youth. We are particularly concerned with young people’s capacity building, their civic participation, their role in development, the protection of their risks, their social inclusion (especially within productive employment) and the affirmation of their multiple identities.

Our commitment to youth stems from the conviction that this is not only a critical age in terms of reproduction and intergenerational reversal of inequalities that affect social inclusion and exclusion in our societies. We also know that youth is the link between the present and the future, and the expression of intergenerational solidarity: it’s the new generations that will have to face the challenges that the ILO emphasises today with regards to the path towards decent employment.

The ILO estimates that in 2013, around 74.5 million young people between 15 and 24 years were unemployed: almost one million more than in the year before that. The global youth unemployment rate has risen to 13.1 per cent: this value is three times higher than the unemployment rate for adults. In fact, youth unemployment has reached an all time high in relation to adult unemployment, with particularly high values being recorded in the Middle East and North Africa as well as in some countries in Latin America and the Caribbean and Southern Europe. It is noteworthy that in the countries for which data are available, the percentage of young people who neither work, nor study and receive training (NEET) has continued to rise sharply since the beginning of the crisis. In some countries, it is estimated that this situation applies to about one quarter of young people between 15 and 29 years old. (read paper)