Geneva – There is a “growing disconnect between people and policy, people and government… Many people are saying ‘you are not taking my situation into account’ – this is particularly true in the case of youth and young people, whose feeling is often: ‘OK, you talk about our issues but we’re not there, we’re not there in the process.’
This is what the Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO), Juan Somavia, said in an address to young men and women attending the opening of an ILO Youth Employment Forum in Geneva on 23 May. Somavia also warned of growing discontent “over the way the global economic crisis has been handled in Europe,” while hailing developing countries that followed a different track and increased social protection.
A Forum for Young People Involved in the Promotion of Decent Work for Youth
The Youth Employment Forum brings together a hundred young men and women involved in the promotion of decent work for youth – including entrepreneurs, unionists and activists from youth organizations – to share their experiences and views on the current employment situation and discuss practical examples of successful initiatives which have led to the promotion of decent work for youth, the UN reports.
The “Scarred” Generation of Young Workers
According to ILO, the world is facing a worsening youth employment crisis: young people are three times more likely to be unemployed than adults, and over 75 million youth worldwide are looking for work. The labour agency has warned of a “scarred” generation of young workers facing a dangerous mix of high unemployment, increased inactivity and precarious work in developed countries, as well as persistently high working poverty in the developing world.
In his remarks, Somavia said the growing discontent over the handling of the economic crisis is fuelling a global reaction.
“Many European countries stuck in an ‘austerity-led recession’ are looking at the crisis from a purely financial point of view, while the public is asking ‘What about us? We’re paying the cost for a crisis we had no responsibility whatsoever in producing,’” the ILO chief said.
Many Developing Countries “Came Out of the Crisis Quicker”
By contrast, many developing countries “came out of the crisis quicker and with different policies than the developed economies that are still mired in the crisis,” Somavia said. Those countries, he noted, took care of their debt years ago and did not need to borrow from the International Monetary Fund to confront the latest global economic crisis.
The labour chief hailed the young people at the Forum for “trying to change society for the better,” pointing out the difficulties involved.
“Is it worth it? Is it moving forward? Are we really changing anything?” Somavia said. “Is this activism having effect? Let me tell you, the answer is yes, it is yes, yes, yes.”
A small delegation from the Youth Employment Forum will stay on for ILO’s annual International Labour Conference, where the youth employment crisis is expected to feature prominently in discussions.
More than 5,000 government, employer and worker delegates from the ILO’s 183 member states are scheduled to attend the Conference, which will be held from 30 May to 15 June.
600 Million New Jobs, Needed
“Despite strenuous government efforts, the jobs crisis continues unabated, with one in three workers worldwide – or an estimated 1.1 billion people – either unemployed or living in poverty,” said Juan Somavia, the ILO Director-General. “What is needed is that job creation in the real economy must become our number one priority,” he said.
The economic recovery that started in 2009 was short-lived, according to the report, which notes that there are still 27 million more unemployed workers than at the start of the crisis.
The fact that economies are not generating enough employment is reflected in the employment-to-population ratio (the proportion of the working-age population in employment), which suffered the largest decline on record between 2007, when it was 61.2 per cent, and 2010, when it fell to 60.2 per cent, according to the report.
There are nearly 29 million fewer people in the labour force now than would be expected based on pre-crisis trends. If these “discouraged workers” were counted as unemployed, then global unemployment would swell from the current 197 million to 225 million, and the unemployment rate would rise from 6 per cent to 6.9 per cent.
The report presents three scenarios on the employment situation in the future.
The baseline projection shows an additional 3 million unemployed for 2012, rising to 206 million by 2016. In the second scenario, if global economic growth rates fall below 2 per cent, then unemployment would rise to 204 million in 2012.
The better scenario assumes that there will be a quick resolution of the euro zone debt crisis, which would lead to global unemployment dropping by one million this year.
Some 74.8 million young people between the ages of 15 and 24 were unemployed last year, an increase of more than 4 million since 2007, according to the report. Young people are nearly three times as likely as adults to be unemployed. The global youth unemployment rate, at 12.7 per cent, remains a full percentage point above the pre-crisis level.