OECD governments have committed to stepping up their efforts to tackle high youth unemployment and strengthen their education systems to better prepare young people for the world of work.
Endorsing the OECD’s Action Plan for Youth at the Organisation’s annual Ministerial Meeting in Paris, ministers underlined the need to focus attention on the most disadvantaged youth, including the low-skilled and immigrants, who are at most risk of long-term unemployment and social exclusion.
“Immediate action is needed to stop the crisis further damaging young people’s prospects,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría at the OECD Ministerial Meeting in Paris. “This commitment by OECD countries is encouraging. Governments must strengthen their efforts to promote the creation of jobs for youth, push ahead with their labour market reforms, and improve their education systems to give young people the opportunities they need to succeed.”
The number of young people out of work in the OECD area is nearly a third higher than in 2007 and set to rise still further in most of the countries with already very high unemployment in the months ahead. Youth unemployment rates exceeded 25% in nine OECD countries at the end of the first quarter of 2013, including Ireland, Italy, Portgual, Spain and Greece. Download the latest data.
Long-term unemployment among youth has increased dramatically since 2007, with more than one in five young people aged 15-24 out of work for more than 12 months. Even countries that have escaped the worst of the crisis, such as Australia, New Zealand and Sweden, have seen a significant rise in long-term joblessness.
These figures do not capture the full hardship of youth, as many who have left education no longer appear in official unemployment statistics. Around 22 million young people are NEETs: not in employment, education or training. Two-thirds of them have given up looking for work and are likely to experience long periods of joblessness and lower pay than their peers over the course of their lives.
In the short-term, in addition to tackling weak growth and boosting job creation, countries should provide income support for the unemployed youth. This will help youth, especially the disadvantaged who leave school early with few or no qualifications, stay in touch with the labour market. In exchange, they must engage in active job search and participate training programmes if needed.
To improve their long-term job prospects, reforms to education and training systems are essential. One in five young people leave school without the skills they need in today’s job market – reducing school dropout rates, eliminating grade repetition and measures to give youth a second chance would help. The quality and relevance of vocational training programmes also need to be improved to better prepare young people for today’s and tomorrow’s jobs.
Countries will commit to the key elements of the OECD Action Plan for Youth and to taking on strengthening effective measures to improve youth outcomes. The OECD will work with countries to help their implementation of the Plan and will report on progress at the Ministerial Meeting in 2014.
Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor
Getting our youth back to work
OECD’s Learning for Jobs analysis shows that skills development is far more effective if the world of learning and the world of work are integrated. It’s not difficult to understand why. Skills that aren’t used can atrophy. And, compared to purely government-designed curricula taught exclusively in schools, learning in the workplace allows young people to develop “hard” skills on modern equipment and “soft” skills, such as teamwork, communication and negotiation, through real-world experience. Hands-on workplace training can also help to motivate disengaged youth to stay in or re-engage with the education system.
But building skills is the relatively easy part of the plan; far tougher is providing opportunities for young people to use their skills. Employers might need to offer greater flexibility in the workplace. Labour unions may need to reconsider their stance on rebalancing employment protection for permanent and temporary workers. Enterprises need reasonably long trial periods to enable employers giving those youth who lack work experience a chance to prove themselves and facilitate a transition to regular employment. And some countries may need to review the minimum wage for younger workers to make it easier for low-skilled young people to get their first job and discourage early school leaving by lowering the opportunity cost of staying on at school.
Last but not least, if all of this is about more than getting young people temporarily off the street, we need to ensure that talent is used effectively.
Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor