“Be a part of growing businesses”. Most young professionals – like me – who have googled for career management tips must have stumbled upon this brilliant piece of advice from Warren Buffet, the legendary billionaire whose sheer shrewdness has made him the most successful investor at Wall Street and beyond. And the advice holds ground. After all, a growing business – even if it is still at its nascent stage – provides more opportunities for development since – compared to a large, sluggish company – there is more work than there are people to do them and the marginal reward from going the extra mile is higher. Not surprisingly, the very potential of growth (and the accompanying opportunity for development) has attracted so many young people to Silicon Valley – not just to become entrepreneurs but also to work for fledgling start-ups.
More than five years since the onset of the 2008 global financial meltdown, “growth” is the most sought goal and yet the most elusive one for businesses and economies alike. A business can be regarded as a microcosm for the wider macro-economy in terms of the benefits that growth can unravel for its members. A fast-growing economy is in a better shape to tackle many of its inherent problems, such as infrastructural deficiencies, unemployment and poverty, and to provide opportunities for its members to function at their highest capacity (an idea that remains at the cornerstone of capitalism). Needless to say, in the absence of growth, an economy ceases to provide adequate opportunities for its members – leading to undercapitalization of its members’ potential.
During the last financial crisis, when the prospect of de-growth loomed over developed economies, a ray of hope was brought by the emerging ones – including the elite BRICS nations with awe-inspiring growth rates. Economies, like India and Brazil, rode on double-digit growth rates while the Chinese economy – fueled by its (now speculative) investment-driven growth model – seemed well-poised to overtake the American economy in the offing. Despite bearing their share of the domino effect from the financial crisis, the emerging economies seemed to have the potential to propel the global economy in those difficult times. To the rest of the world, the emerging economies were a source of hope and renewed optimism.
Unfortunately, that very ray of hope has been extinguished. With the emerging economies themselves submerging (following the Fed’s announcement to taper its QE program), half of Europe mired in recession and new challenges brought forth by the US government shutdown, the prospect for the global economy to return to stable growth remains bleak. In no circumstances, the current pace of global growth is enough to sustain the aspirations of young people around the world. Young people represent the very segment with the greatest need to be part of growing businesses and growing economies. The most evident sign of this failure of global economy is in the form of rising youth unemployment. In Europe alone, around 15 million young people remain unemployed. In Italy, the poster boy for the doomed PIIGS economies, one out of every four young people is out of the workforce.
Youth unemployment is a far more serious issue that it appears to be on first glance. It is a reflection of eroding potential and another impending crisis. The generation – that will be at the forefront of running businesses and economies in a couple of decades – is not getting the opportunity to acquire the needed skills and experience. Worse, many young people may not be even able to make the transition to the workforce due to prolonged periods of being unemployed and inexperienced.
Indeed, times like this challenge us to ponder upon this discomforting (and disheartening) question: Is a significant portion of our generation less likely to be part of high-growth companies and economies at the onset of their careers, and thus less likely to get the opportunity to prepare themselves for the unforeseeable challenges of future? Youth unemployment in a global economy characterized by subdued growth is the defining issue confronting this generation and one that demands immediate attention from policymakers around the world.
What about the situation of young people in your country? Do you see yourself in a world of fewer opportunities and more demands? Please post your opinions below or send them through Project Firefly’s Facebook page.