This story was written by the ILO Newsroom For official ILO statements and speeches, please visit our “Statements and Speeches” section.

Youth Conference

ILO calls for urgent investment in youth work opportunities

The head of the ILO’s Employment sector outlines the ILO’s vision for investment in young people in order to tackle the world-wide youth unemployment crisis.

News | 11 September 2012
"We must urgently invest in youth opportunities, (...)policies and interventions can make a great difference."
J.M. Salazar-Xirinachs
WASHINGTON (ILO News) – The International Labour Organization (ILO) has called for an urgent investment in opportunities for young people to tackle the challenge of growing youth unemployment.

Speaking at the Global Youth Economic Opportunities Conference in Washington, ILO’s Executive Director for Employment José Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs stressed the need for strong collective action following the latest jobless figures, which showed that 12.6 per cent of young people, or some 75 million youths, are out of work (Read the full speech).

He told delegates that the gloomy figures should not be taken as “a prophecy of inevitable doom”.

“On the contrary, my message to you is yes, the recovery has been weak and there are still heavy clouds on the horizon but we must urgently invest in youth opportunities, because we also know that policies and interventions matter and can make a great difference.”

A total of 1.2 billion of the world’s population are between 15 and 24 years old. 90 per cent of them live in developing countries and 55 per cent in Asia. In Africa, the average age of the population is 19.

Youth unemployment snapshot
  • 75 million young people are unemployed globally
  • Young people are three times more likely than adults to be jobless
  • More than 200 million working youth earn less than US$ 2 a day
  • At least 10 per cent of youth are not in education, employment or training (NEET)
“This demographic reality means that the overall unemployment and underemployment problem in most African countries in the next decades is really a youth employment problem,” he said.

Salazar-Xirinachs outlined five key areas for intervention, contained in the Call for Action agreed by governments, employers and workers at the International Labour Conference last June: education and training, labour market policies, youth entrepreneurship, labour rights for young people and macroeconomic policies for youth employment.

In its September 2012 Global Employment Outlook the ILO said that jobless rates among young people would get worse globally, as the spill-over from the Euro crisis spreads from advanced to emerging economies. With East Asian and Latin American economies slowing down and world trade shrinking sharply, the result will be weaker labour markets.

Salazar-Xirinachs said more needs to be done to improve the quality of education and training and to link the world of education and training with the world of work through apprenticeships, skills strategies and improved access to employment services.

Labour market policies should be targeted to the most disadvantaged groups and young people should also be helped to set up their own businesses, through youth entrepreneurship schemes. However, in the drive to promote youth employment, government policies and employers should not sideline labour rights for young workers, such as minimum wages and health, safety and social protection.

Strong and sustained growth is essential, he said, and should be promoted through wider economic policies, dynamic agricultural, industrial and service sectors, and accelerating productive transformation.

The Global Youth Economic Opportunities Conference is a yearly gathering of funders, researchers, practitioners, policymakers, corporations and youth from more than 50 countries, who discuss lessons learned and what works to promote employment for young people.

The ILO’s call for action
In June 2012, the ILO adopted a resolution at its annual Conference, calling for immediate, targeted and renewed action to tackle the youth unemployment crisis. The resolution provides a portfolio of tried and tested measures in five areas: macro-economic policies, employability, labour market policies, youth entrepreneurship and rights. It underscores the need for balance, coherence and complementarity across the policy measures (Read the press release).

The ILO call for action on youth employment calls on governments and the social partners:
  • To foster pro-employment growth and decent job creation through macroeconomic policies, employability, labour market policies, youth entrepreneurship and rights to tackle the social consequences of the crisis, while ensuring financial and fiscal sustainability.
  • To promote macroeconomic policies and fiscal incentives that support employment and stronger aggregate demand, improve access to finance and increase productive investment – taking account of different economic situations in countries.
  • To adopt fiscally sustainable and targeted measures, such as countercyclical policies and demand-side interventions, public employment programmes, employment guarantee schemes, labour-intensive infrastructure programmes, wage and training subsidies and other specific youth employment interventions. Such programmes should ensure equal treatment for young workers.