Youth unemployment – a global trend

AAT Chief Executive Jane Scott Paul is passionate about empowering young people through skills development. Jane reminds us that youth unemployment is not only a challenge in South Africa, it is a global trend.

The OECD has recently released a report: Education at a Glance 2013 which highlights the problem of youth unemployment worldwide. There is evidence that employment prospects for young people have deteriorated over recent years. The OECD figures are corroborated by an Independent Labour Organisation (ILO) report Global Employment Trends for Youth 2013.

Youth unemployment affects both developed and developing countries. In the European countries most affected by the sovereign debt crisis (Greece, Spain and Portugal), prospects for young people are so limited that they are migrating in large numbers to more stable economies. The reasons for youth unemployment and the ways that it impacts on different countries may vary, but no country can afford to ignore it because it has serious consequences for society and for the economy.

Unemployment is caused by a shortfall in the number of jobs for those seeking work. A troubling aspect of youth unemployment is a mismatch between the skills of those entering the labour market for the first time and the jobs available. As well as creating unemployment, this also often results in ‘underemployment’ which leads to people taking jobs for which they are over-qualified – graduates flipping burgers in fast food outlets or working at supermarket check outs for example. This in turn leads to the exclusion of less-skilled people from employment. The Arab spring uprisings were partly driven by the frustration of graduates who were unable to find suitable employment.

South Africa is experiencing skills shortages in key sectors of the economy alongside high unemployment rates for graduates, which is depressing for the graduates, and means that employers compete for the small number of qualified people driving up labour costs.

Governments are starting to recognise that youth unemployment must be addressed and that it needs concerted focussed action. Job creation alone is not enough; more entrepreneurs are needed to grow economies.

All stakeholders must work together to get our youth into work to improve economic growth, to ensure political and social stability but above all for human dignity and well-being.

Jane Scott Paul
Chief Executive AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians)

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