How to Effectively Combat Youth Unemployment

Youth joblessness around the globe is reaching crisis proportions, leaving as many as 100 million young people unable to find a job or lead productive and purposeful lives. The rise in youth unemployment also robs communities and countries of an historic opportunity to boost economic growth and prosperity.

Japanese job fair
Toru Yamanaka | AFP | Getty Images
Japanese job fair

The recent global financial crisis has disproportionately impacted young people's ability to find a job. From 2008-2009 alone, the number of jobless youth increased by 8.5 million – the largest year-to-year increase in at least a decade.

The rate of youth unemployment not only affects economic development in a region or a country. It also impacts the peace and stability of our societies. A recent study on youth in Pakistan reports growing unrest among youth in that country, due in large part to rising unemployment, and predicts Pakistan faces a "demographic disaster" if the needs of its fast-growing youth population remain unaddressed.

The International Youth Foundation (IYF) has made global youth employment a top priority over the past decade, establishing job and entrepreneurship programs in Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa. IYF's signature entra21 youth employability program in Latin America has already trained some 40,000 unemployed youth and helped half of them find jobs.

IYF has gained considerable expertise and experience in the youth employment field. Among our top strategies and lessons learned:

  • Support a market-driven approach to job training that includes local labor market assessments and employer-based surveys to ensure job training programs match local business needs.
  • Prepare youth with a range of skills. Employers are seeking youth who can work in teams, resolve problems, and communicate effectively. These "life skills" must be part of a comprehensive job training program, along with technical job training, internships, and job placement assistance.
  • Invest in "what works." There is a wealth of knowledge in the development community around effective youth employment programs. Greater emphasis must be placed on identifying and sharing lessons learned and investing in proven programs. IYF and the World Bank have co-sponsored regional learning conference around youth employment in Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America to deepen understanding of the most effective strategies available.
  • Go for scale. The urgent needs of youth today demand we take successful models to scale, thereby reaching greater numbers of youth.
  • Invest in youth entrepreneurship. Young people excel in developing innovative solutions to complex problems. Many have the inherent skills needed to launch their own enterprises – that then hire other youth. Invest in them.

IYF believes the most effective way to impact young people's lives is to engage all stakeholders – governments, corporations, civil society organizations, and young people themselves – in finding solutions and maximizing investments.

USAID, the World Bank, and the Multilateral Investment Fund have been strong supporters of such partnerships over the years. The corporate sector, in particular, has a critical role to play in not only preparing youth for jobs but also helping to create those jobs. _________________________
The author is.... (Bill Reese is President and Chief Executive Officer of the International Youth Foundation)