Governments must tackle youth unemployment now, says OECD

16 May 12
Developed economies must take ‘concrete and targeted’ action to tackle unacceptably high levels of youth unemployment, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

By Nick Mann | 16 May 2012

Developed economies must take ‘concrete and targeted’ action to tackle unacceptably high levels of youth unemployment, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Figures published by the OECD yesterday reveal that March’s youth unemployment rate across 33 countries was 17.1%. This compares with the November 2009 peak of 18.3% and is more than double the 8.2% overall OECD unemployment rate.

There has been a ‘radical shift’ in youth unemployment rates since the economic crisis began, the OECD said, with the percentage of jobless people aged 15–24 more than doubling between 2007 and 2012.

In Spain, youth unemployment was 19.7% in December 2007 but had increased to 51.1% by March 2012, while in Greece the rate increased from 21.6% to 51.2% over the same period. For the OECD countries as a whole, the rate increased from 12.8% to 17.1%.

OECD secretary general Angel Gurria said: ‘Governments need to address this economic and social problem with decisive and concrete action.’

‘My message to G20 Ministers in Guadalajara is that there are cost-effective ways to boost the employment prospects of youth, and that any fiscal consolidation strategy needs to be smart, growth-friendly and take care of future generations. We propose concrete and targeted policy action and investment in skills and education of the young to give them hope for a better future.’

In its analysis, the OECD noted that youth labour market difficulties were affecting G20 emerging economies as well as advanced countries, with young people in ‘precarious and informal’ jobs or economically inactive as well as registered unemployed.

An additional 23 million or more young people in OECD countries do not appear in labour force statistics but are not in education, employment or training.

There is growing concern that a significant and growing proportion of youth, even those who would have found jobs in good times, are at high risk of prolonged unemployment or inactivity, the OECD said.

It called on governments to prioritise measures that target young people at risk, in particular those leaving school with few or no qualifications and the children of immigrants.

Steps that could be taken include providing effective job search assistance for young people, strengthening apprenticeship programmes and setting minimum wages at levels that don’t discourage employers from hiring inexperienced and low-skilled young people.

In a separate statistical release, the OECD said overall unemployment across its member countries was 8.2% in March 2012 – the same rate it has been since February 2011. Rising unemployment rates in Portugal, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands were cancelled out by a fall in the jobless total in the US, the OECD said.

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