International Youth Day: Migration Can Help Tackle Youth Unemployment But Longer-Term Thinking Required

Finding decent work is understandably the driving motivation for many of the estimated 27 million young people who make the brave decision to leave family and friends behind and move to another country.
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Youth unemployment is one of the greatest challenges facing the world today. Worldwide, 73 million young people between the ages of 15-24 years are estimated to be unemployed - that's half the population of Russia or around three times that of Australia. According to the latest data, around 6 in 10 young people in Greece are unemployed, in the Middle East more than a quarter of young people are jobless and in the United States, the latest figures show that nearly one in four teenagers is out of work. When young people are left on the sidelines of work they are excluded from the learning curve, their skills grow rusty and they are denied the work experience that makes them valuable to employers. Even short periods of unemployment impact future earning potential. This isn't just an issue impacting high school drop-outs. Many of today's unemployed youth have excellent academic credentials yet are struggling to transition from education to employment.

International Youth Day, celebrated today, was established by the United Nations to raise awareness of issues affecting young people around the world. So when the theme of this year's International Youth Day was declared Youth Migration: Moving Development Forward it was easy to understand why: with high rates of youth unemployment, finding decent work is understandably the driving motivation for many of the estimated 27 million young people who make the brave decision to leave family and friends behind and move to another country.

Strategic migration not only helps tackle youth unemployment, it can also help address acute global talent shortages. ManpowerGroup conducts annual research in 42 countries and our 2013 study found that more than one in three employers globally are currently experiencing difficulty filling open positions even while unemployment rates remain high in many markets. Unfortunately, the skills that these people have don't match what employers need. One of the ways in which this mismatch can be resolved is through strategic migration and, by facilitating approval of training qualifications achieved abroad and supporting relocation programs for young people, this can be made easier. We live in the Human Age, where labor legislation is still local but talent is already global.

However, encouraging people to move from one country to another to find work should be considered a short-term and partial solution. The Human Age is marked by talentism as the dominant economic system -- which means that developing a sustainable talent pipeline is critical for countries and businesses to succeed. The lasting effects of a continual "brain drain" of young talent moving abroad would exacerbate talent shortages and hamper future economic growth for many countries.

Successfullyresolving this issue is dependent on synergy within the employment ecosystem -- employers, educators, governments and individuals working together to ensure youth are fully engaged.

Last year, I co-chaired the World Economic Forum Business 20 (B20) Task Force on Employment. The Task Force developed five global scalable actions for boosting and sustaining employment worldwide, which were then presented to the G20. Two of these are particularly relevant to youth:

  • Improve collaboration between business and educational institutions. The Task Force proposed a multistakeholder pilot among G20 stakeholders to, among other actions, create a coalition of 30-40 businesses within one or more G20 economies to launch a major campaign against youth unemployment in collaboration with education providers and youth organizations, by committing to hiring additional young people with appropriate skills required for their operations, The campaign should have a specific impact target (such as measurably reducing national youth unemployment by a certain amount) appropriate to the national context.
  • Scale internships and apprenticeships. Scale the number, quality and image of internships and apprenticeships for young people making the school-to-work transition and experienced workers transitioning careers, upgrading local programmes and developing a cross-G20 internship and apprenticeship exchange. A key component should be launching a major campaign to improve the image of apprenticeships and technical vocations, as skilled trades positions suffer the biggest talent shortages in a number of countries.

This International Youth Day, I urge all governments, businesses and educational institutions to focus on working together to address youth unemployment, working through these actions to help change the employment landscape for our youth. Living and working in another country can provide invaluable experience and a fantastic development opportunity for a young person. At the same time it keeps young people employed while helping address talent shortages in the country they are visiting. However, in order to make a real and lasting impact in addressing youth unemployment, we must look at the systemic issues causing joblessness and address these at country level.

Young people should not have to feel that the only way they can find decent jobs and successful futures is to leave their home country. There is an alternative. We all have a responsibility to make it happen.

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