Invest in youth to tackle jobs crisis

The global economy is recovering but youth unemployment is getting worse, according to a new OECD report.

"Off to a Good Start? Jobs for Youth" says that young people are more than twice as likely to be unemployed as the average worker. Yet few governments are taking proactive steps to boost youth employment. Youth unemployment rates in the OECD area are expected to remain at around 18 per cent in 2011 and 17 per cent in 2012. This is more than double the total unemployment rate, which stood at 8.6 per cent in October 2010.

"Investing in young people is vital to avoid a scarred generation at risk of long-term exclusion," said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. "We can learn from countries that have made it easier for young people to find jobs. It will help us strengthen the economic recovery while taking care of the most precious asset our countries have."

Since the crisis started, 3.5 million more young people have joined the ranks of the unemployed in the OECD area. But unemployment does not capture the full hardship for youth, as many who have left education no longer appear in labour force statistics. At least 16.7 million young people are neither in employment, education or training (the so-called NEET group) - 6.7 million of these youth are still seeking work, while 10 million have given up looking.

The report says that young people who struggle to enter the labour force after leaving school can face persistent scarring. Risks include long-term difficulty finding employment and pay differentials with their peers (up to 8 per cent less in some countries) as deep as 20 years into their careers. Young people leaving school in the coming years are more likely to struggle to find work than previous generations.

The OECD says that governments must prioritise policies that have produced cost-effective results in other countries. Targeting young people most at risk - including youths who leave school without a qualification, come from immigrant backgrounds or live in disadvantaged areas - is the key.

Governments should:


  • Move towards early intervention programmes and effective job-search assistance for different groups of youth, such as in Denmark, the Netherlands and Japan.
  • Strengthen apprenticeship and other dual vocational training programmes for low-skilled youth, as traditionally done in Austria, Germany and Switzerland and scaled up in Australia and in France.
  • Encourage firms to hire youth, by offering temporary subsidies targeting low-skilled youth and those have completed their apprenticeship, as well as small and medium-sized firms.

Full report

The full report "Off to a Good Start? Jobs for Youth" as well as more data and analysis can be downloaded here:

Source: Press release of the OECD, revised by iMOVE, March 2011