Educated yet Unemployed? The dilemma for Youths

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Pavneet Singh Kochhar's picture

"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." – Nelson Mandela

Education is one of the best investments a country can make for its youths. Education holds the key towards removing disparity, promoting sustainable economic growth and acts an accelerator for inclusive development. Universal education features as one of the eight millennium development goals (MDG) set by United Nations [1]. A country's educated youth plays a pivotal role towards its prosperity. However, what happens when youths who are highly educated, who are ambitious, who are meticulous and who want to make a difference in this world are unemployed. Youths today make up world's 40% unemployed [2]. The global youth unemployment was around 73.4 million in 2013, which makes youth unemployment rate almost 3 times the global adult unemployment rate [3]. These alarming figures necessitate that this is the time to think about what went wrong and what immediate actions need to be taken to safeguard the precious future of youths.

Issues & Causes:

Youth unemployment is a serious issue which has sent shockwaves around the world. From protests in several parts of the world to staggering unemployment data of Greece and Spain, it is evident that youths are not happy with what is going on. The issue of quality employment for youth hasn't been considered seriously. The current generation has been termed as the "lost generation", who are highly qualified yet the job market offers only few opportunities.

Several reasons can be attributed to youth unemployment. First and the foremost cause is the lack of particular skills required by today's fast paced industry. Education is often not aligned with the needs of the market, which makes it difficult for employers to find suitable candidates for the vacant positions. Our educational system is oriented towards rote learning whereas industry demands people with practical knowledge. Often youths are not able to practically apply what they learn in schools. Lack of internship and apprenticeship opportunities has created a void between the current knowledge of youths and the demand of industry.

Another factor which significantly impacts unemployment is increasing number of part-time jobs. It is commonly accepted that due to high cost of formal education, most of the students take up part-time jobs. However, the real issue comes in when students graduate and there are not enough full-time opportunities which forces them to resort to part-time work. Currently, Eurozone is grappling with high unemployment rate of 11% [4]. Employers in countries with high unemployment are taking advantage of already bogged down youths by giving them short term contracts and making them work more. Since most of the young people are inexperienced or have less experience, they are more likely to take up job which entails long working hours and involves stressful work. The number of part-time workers who are willing to work more hours (also called as underemployed) rose from 18.5% in 2008 to 21.4% in 2012 [5]. This creates a precarious situation for youths as they have no guaranteed income which leads to exploitation of youths at the hands of their employers. This also means that they are not paid commensurately to the amount of work done and are often deprived of other benefits. They have little knowledge about their rights they should enjoy in the company. Since most of these employees are not on the payroll of the company, thus, it is easier for employers to ask them to leave the company. Furthermore, most of the part-time jobs do not ensure social protection that a full-time worker gets.

Lack of self-confidence is another major factor contributing towards youths remaining unemployed. The economic downturn has created a panicky environment and resulted in youths having gloomy outlook of their future. Furthermore, remaining unemployed for a long time can adversely affect the future opportunities of the youth as employers have a negative perception and can question the youth about unemployment which creates a de-motivating environment. These discouraged youths may stop looking for jobs and could feel alienated or secluded from the society.

Youth unemployment has a significant impact on the individuals. The lost production of youths not in employment, economy or training (also termed as NEETs) can significantly impact the economy of the nations. NEETs cost European Union (EU) nearly 153 billion euros in terms of lost earnings and taxes [6]. The consequences are not only economic but carry grave repercussions for young people in the form of social exclusion. This also includes the risk of youths excluding themselves from the democratic process and trying to stay away from the system. High levels of unemployment also create the fear of losing youths into the hands of crime and drug abuse.

All these issues call for innovative solutions that can address the pressing issue of youth unemployment.

Potential Solutions:

The recession has created a negative mind-set that luck is more important to succeed than hard work. To help students develop an optimistic outlook during their academia bout, several universities have student wellness centre which are actively delivering workshops to deal with common problems faced by students such as stress, anxiety, time management, confidence building, developing relationships, goal setting etc. Such initiatives assist students to resolve common issues, prevent potential difficulties and help them learn new skills to enhance their lives.

What can governments do?

Long-term strategies to better align educational systems with labour market requirements and efforts to promote entrepreneurship are sorely needed. Improving our understanding of the fast paced industry will help us tailor the educational curriculum to provide holistic education to youths which not only makes them employable, but creates a lifelong learning impact on them. Increasing number of youths are taking up entrepreneurial path since the economic crisis in 2008-09. The governments should work towards creating a conducible entrepreneurial environment where young budding entrepreneurs can come up with bright ideas and get support to convert those ideas into something realistic. Numerous start-ups close down after some time due to lack of financial support even though they have bright ideas. Thus, it is important to encourage entrepreneurship by increasing and making it easy to get funds. One such possibility is to develop public-private partnership and nurture innovative start-ups through resources such as mentorship during the initial stages with an aim to develop start-ups into globally competitive brands. Not only it gives an opportunity for youths to turn their ambition into reality, it makes youths develop a risk-taking attitude.

StartUp Africa[1] is one such programme which supports African youths with bold ideas and who have the potential to become tomorrow's business leaders. Through various initiatives such as annual competition, conference and roundtable events, they create a platform for budding entrepreneurs, business leaders, investors and renowned professors from all over the world to discuss issues, pitch in ideas and provide networking opportunities to create a healthy entrepreneurial environment.

The governments need to allocate more funds dedicated for educational programmes and generating meaningful employment opportunities. For example, Europe has decided to push in 6 billion euros towards promoting employment programs [7]. Furthermore, there is a need to apportion funds based on the current condition and needs of the countries. It is important to engage all the stakeholders such as government authorities, colleges & universities, career counsellors, employers, youth organisations to create a common platform to bring up the issues faced by them individually as well as common problems and come up with ingenious solutions. All this needs to be done to bring back youth into the labour market as well as ensure sustainable employment opportunities for them. A positive step has been taken by EU by launching Youth Guarantee scheme which aims to provide good offer within 4 months of graduating or becoming unemployed [8]. This offer could be a job, internship or support for further studies. Such schemes will ensure that unemployed youths do not feel disoriented and have an optimistic outlook towards life and their future.

The governments must implement macroeconomic policies which have a significant impact on employment and economy of the country. The governments should set minimum wage which will help towards reducing discrimination towards youths. It should be imperative for employers to provide equal rights to part-time and full-time workers. Young people working in part-time jobs should be educated about their rights so that they can exercise these rights and prevent not only themselves but also their peers from exploitation. Youth as well as youth organisations need to actively step up and take the initiative and spread awareness among youngsters. Through a series of measures such as employment programmes, youth employment guarantee schemes, training programs, governments can ensure that they have a far reaching impact.

Although there are no easy solutions, however, unless business leaders, political leaders and other stakeholders stand up and ensure that education and youth employment is of foremost importance and sustainable plans are not taken, youths would not be able to unleash the power behind the most precious weapon they have i.e., EDUCATION.

References: 

[1] United Nations Millennium Development Goals, retrieved from {http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/}

[2] Working with youth: Addressing the youth employment challenge, retrieved from {http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---ed_emp/---ed_emp_msu/document...}

[3] Global Employment Trends for Youth 2013, retrieved from

{http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---dgreports/---dcomm/documents/... }

[4] Unemployment Statistics, retrieved from {http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/statistics_explained/index.php/Unemploy...}

[5] Proportion of underemployed part-time workers up to 21.4% in the EU27 in 2012, retrieved from {http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_STAT-13-63_en.pdf}

[6] NEETs Young people not in employment, education or training: Characteristics, costs and policy responses in Europe, retrieved from {http://www.eurofound.europa.eu/pubdocs/2012/54/en/1/EF1254EN.pdf}

[7] Commission proposes rules to make Youth Employment Initiative a reality, retrieved from

{http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?langId=en&catId=89&newsId=1829}

[8] Youth Guarantee Scheme, retrieved from {http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=1079}

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