Colombia: A Youth Unemployment Success Story?
Colombia is one country that has managed to significantly reduce its youth unemployment rates and has been able to gain a place as one of the top growing economies in South America.
Youth unemployment is closely related to the unequal education system in Colombia. In the country, tertiary education providers are divided into public and private actors. Public providers often offer poor quality education, which means that around 40% of the students receive education that is of little value in the labor market. This turns young people into a vulnerable group, since they do not have particularly advantages in the labor market, as well as no real incentives to join it. On the other hand, private tertiary education often offers a better quality education, which means that these students are receiving useful education. This division between public and private education sets up the basis for an unequal society, since only those who can afford private education are those who will receive a good quality education.
Entrepreneurship is now being considered as a way to overcome youth unemployment and inequality. However, when young people decide to become entrepreneurs, they feel the lack of support from a society that does not like to take risks and ignores how much you can learn from failing. Furthermore, the decision to become an entrepreneur is not easily accepted, since it is considered one full of uncertainty.
Nevertheless, things changed in this country full of contrasts and the rate of youth unemployment achieved in 2013 its lowest point in the last 12 years. It has actually decreased by 3 points in the past 2 years. This made that the country became one of the highest job generators in South America and an attractive one to the eyes of the world. Bogotá has been the epicenter of this change and nowadays is acclaimed as a city of entrepreneurship. As a matter of fact, the city has hold different events like The Startup & Investor Summit, in which more than 300 projects of young entrepreneurs were presented during two days. It counted on the support of important personalities including investors, accelerators and the government.
Doug Richard is a former entrepreneur and founder of the School for Startups that has helped thousands of young people around the world. In his eyes “Colombia belongs to the group of countries that is having an accelerated growth, but still many people have not discovered it”. He emphasises: “what has surprised me is the quality of entrepreneurs, the ideas they have and how they manage to evolve them”, showing how young people are putting their endeavour to spread creativity around and putting all their energy, skills and passion for what they believe is a way of living.
The Chamber of Commerce of Bogotá and Innpulsa Colombia are organisations that are promoting the values and skills of being an entrepreneur by providing education, calls and competitions. Additionally, young people are more positive towards starting their own business, since they are beginning to perceive the positive aspects of being self-employed. One example of an entrepreneur is Andres Barreto, who is the founder of Grooveshark and Onswipe, among others, and is considered the Latin Mark Zuckerberg. He is helping to inspire and support the young entrepreneurship community in Colombia. He has been an example of perseverance and courage and has inspired others to keep going and learn from failure.
In short, it must be said that young people are central actors when talking about the improvement of youth unemployment rates in Colombia. They are turning the situation around and they are the active nucleus for growth. With their energy and creativity, they are helping to build a new ideology that includes the values of being an entrepreneur and the importance of generating jobs through self-inspired businesses. They have made of themselves an example not only for the region but for the whole world.
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