The Real Crisis: Global Youth Unemployment
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The Real Crisis: Global Youth Unemployment


Last week, Secretary Kerry made his first speech as Secretary of State at the University of Virginia where he spoke about the importance of our foreign policy, especially for young people.  He said “In countries across North Africa and the Middle East, the majority of people are younger than 30 years old.  About half are under 20.  They seek the same things you do: opportunity.  And we have an interest in helping these young people develop the skills they need to defeat the mass unemployment overwhelming their societies so they can start contributing to their communities and rebuild their broken economies.”

There is perhaps no issue more important than youth unemployment. Both fledgling democracies and developed nations alike face massive challenges to create pathways to employment for their young citizens.

Global leaders from the public and private sector have expressed concern as well.  Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent worried that youth unemployment "has a chance of cracking the social fabric." The Prime Minister of Malaysia, Najib Razak, recently wrote of the "opportunity deficit" many young people face in the current job market.  U.N.Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called for strengthened policies and investments involving young people.

There is a clear leadership role for the United States on this issue.Secretary of State John Kerry asserted, "foreign policy is economic policy." In other words, the U.S. cannot advance its interests abroad without focusing on how to advance global prosperity.

Through the use of our convening power and diplomatic toolkit, the United States must partner with other nations to solve the crises of youth unemployment.

The sheer number of young people globally means they are disproportionately affected by economic and employment policies,usually negatively in today's economy. The International Labour Organization reports that youth, ages 15 to 24, are three times more likely to be unemployed than adults, with nearly 75 million youth unemployed around the world. Consequently, an increasing number of young people have become discouraged and left the labor market.

Now is the time for meaningful action. If we only pay lip service to the this crisis, we risk an insurmountable economic challenge in the future-along with serious threats to stability and prosperity-in many, if not all, regions of the world.

Secretary Kerry has said that developed countries have an obligation-and a strategic interest-in helping solve this unemployment crisis by promoting economic freedom, decent work, and opportunity for youth. That is why the Department of State has joined the Youth Livelihoods Alliance, a public-private partnership that convenes foreign governments, multilateral institutions, the private sector, civic organizations, and other entities to find solutions to the underlying causes of youth unemployment.  The Alliance promotes practical and innovative solutions through the exchange of best practices in workforce development, skills training, and job creation through entrepreneurship. Over the next few months, the State Department will be convening Alliance members on several topics related to youth unemployment, so that they can identify innovative solutions and scale them up.

To be sure, America faces serious global challenges everyday which often require immediate attention. However, when considering the long-term economic outlook of the United States, it is important to recall how deeply tied America is to both the global economy and other nations. If today's 75 million unemployed youth are ignored, the damage to the global economy — including America's — could be decades-long and devastating.

As Secretary Kerry recently said, "Burgeoning populations of young people, hungry for jobs, opportunity, individual rights and freedom are rebelling against years of disenfranchisement and humiliation…The developed world can do more to meet the challenge and responsibility of these aspirations." Engagement is a smart move forboth the U.S. and other first-world economies.

We are at a tipping point for youth unemployment. By investing inyoung people and their skills, governments around the world can build 21st-century economies that are innovative, sustainable and prosperous.

Zeenat Rahman is U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's Special Adviser for Global Youth Issues at the U.S. Department of State. She is a Fellow with The Truman National Security Project.

August 5, 2013 at 18:47

its outstanding really i think that even a great person cannt think like thissss. i think that diplomat is one of the wonders of the world


Bill Rich
March 18, 2013 at 08:33

Macdonald is having trouble finding burger flippers.

Marina Aleksandrova
March 10, 2013 at 02:35

In certain developing countries the unemployment issue is tied to corruptive practices: only certain people are allowed to get to specific positions (because of political ties, which are not related to job experience and skills in the related area). Thus much of the eductated youth is left disappointed. Therefore fighting corruption in such states will lead to better ooportunities for the recent university graduated. 

On a second basis it could be thought of stimulating traineeships' opportunities, which are completely lacking or last no more than 2 months in countries like Bulgaria for example.

sin nombre
March 8, 2013 at 09:25

Those masses of unemployed young people especially in north Africa and the Middle East should form brigades like the ones now known to be existing and operating in Libya. Our world will be a more interesting place to live in when we have such "brigades" all over the place. Many thanks to the warped thinking possessed by today's global masters. And Mr Kerry is just one of them.

March 8, 2013 at 05:47

No one mentions the elephant in the room – minimum wage laws.

Youth unemployment in Greece and Spain tops 50%, but not one politician dares to suggest lowering or eliminating the minimum wage. Eliminating the minimum wage would cause unemployment to disappear, as wages fell until supply met demand. Crime would fall, the underground economy would shrink,  and tax revenue would go up.

Unemployment is a tragic waste of human resources. These young people need jobs – any job, at any wage. to regain their self-respect.

 They need to have hope that their entire lives won't be spent on the dole.

vita panga
March 5, 2013 at 11:09

its good that western leaders are thinking about the ‘third world’ countries human resources rather than their natural resources

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