Youth unemployment is perhaps the most worrying labour issue facing the Western world today. It is often pushed aside as a pressing issue; with parents frequently there to fall back on and for students the choice to stay in education for a longer period of time can often prevail. However there is an alarming amount of evidence pointing to the fact that youth unemployment will do some serious lasting damage.
One in 5 under 25s is currently unemployed in the European Union, with figures particularly bad in Southern Europe. In the US, the figure is at 18% and 31% for young African-Americans.
In times of widespread recessions such as we have now, the youth are almost always the first to lose out. In most cases they will be inexperienced and new, so easier to dismiss when employers are looking to make spending cuts.
As with all unemployment, youth unemployment increases benefit payment costs, lost income from taxes and overall wasted capacity. However when the jobless are young, the indirect costs are increased greatly. When less than promising prospects are faced in their home country young, educated people will tend to emigrate. These brain drains effect already struggling economies immensely and are particularly severe in Ireland and Italy. Another significant cost is a rise in crime. Already the main criminal demographic are young adult males, and with more free time, less money and less to lose – the figures can only increase. When these crimes lead to imprisonment, future employment prospects disappear almost completely.
The measures used to combat the problem are generally not working. In some countries the main focus for governments should be on opening up labour markets that lock out younger workers .In countries with more flexible labour markets, the emphasis tends to be on training but this is not always a solution.
Universities can be a source of skills with students entering and staying on at university more and more. The numbers applying increase every year. But as they build up debts, not all these students will be improving their job prospects. Having a university degree still increases the chances of employment, but joblessness among graduates is the highest in America for example, since 1970.
Yet this may be of little use to the hardest to reach under 25s, who often come from backgrounds where joblessness is the norm and the lack of adult role models creates aspiration gaps at an early age.
It is clear more has to be done on a global scale to stop this problem becoming a never ending cycle.