This past weekend, world leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland confronted the issue that just won't go away: youth unemployment. Troubling statistics abound with the youth unemployment rate having hit 46.6% in Greece, 30.7% in Portugal, 23% in the United States and nearly 50% in Spain. Youth unemployment is a serious problem and as the International Labour Organization outlined in a report last week is a problem with deep long-term socio-economic, political and cultural consequences; however, the bulk of the action in response to this problem seems to be lip service rather than concrete policy responses.
Commentators at Davos, speaking on a panel entitled "Averting a Lost Generation", traced the problem of youth unemployment to a variety of factors, such as slack demand for workers on a global and national scale was advanced as the overarching problem, the lack of pro-employment policies from governments, education and training programs that aren't responsive to the changing needs of the global economy, cultural issues which can see segments of domestic populations shut out of labour markets due to discrimination and the lack of communication between stakeholders in society (i.e. private enterprise, public sector institutions, academia).
So what are the policy fixes that need to implemented to address youth unemployment? The panel at Davos considered a range of fascinating policy responses, including the deployment of positive discrimination (i.e. employment equity) forcing companies to hiring youth people, the need for companies to actually train young people in the skills necessary for work and whether regulatory interventions into the labour market like minimum wage and mandatory retirement impact on youth unemployment, and how the dignity of work is valued and measured as a social good.
For more on the youth unemployment crisis, check out my recent article on the ILO's ideas on the necessary public policy responses or what's happening domestically in Canada in relation to youth joblessness or what problems exist structurally in Ontario's labour market. I've also come across a number of interesting articles discussing what has been on the table at Davos, see: here, here and here. Finally, check out the video from the Davos panel on youth unemployment below, see: