Youth Unemployment Causes and Solutions

 In News

With the post-2015 development agenda calling for decent work for all, understanding youth unemployment causes and solutions is key.

Globally, 73 million youth are registered unemployed. Considering how many aren’t registered, this number is actually much higher. 620 million are currently not in employment, education or training (NEET), according to the World Bank.

Meanwhile, with 600 million young slated to enter the job market in the next decade – with only 200 million jobs awaiting them – the youth unemployment crisis is not projected to improve anytime soon.

The post-2015 development agenda is prioritising decent work and economic growth in its Sustainable Development Goal 8, but “promoting inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all” requires targeted solutions.

Youth unemployment causes

1. Financial crisis

Though the current youth unemployment crisis was not caused by the financial crisis alone, the recession just made existing problems in labour markets, education systems and other structures worse.

Greece and Spain, for example, were experiencing high youth unemployment years before the financial downturn, and a sudden surging of economies wouldn’t be enough to put the 74 million unemployed young people to work. Furthermore, the youth unemployment rate is two to three times higher than the adult rate no matter the economic climate.

The recession did, however, affect the quality and security of jobs available to young people. Temporary positions, part-time work, zero-hour contracts and other precarious job paths are often the only way young people can earn money or gain experience these days.

2. Skills mismatch

The skills mismatch is a youth unemployment cause that affects young people everywhere. There are millions of young people out of school and ready to work, but businesses needs skills these young people never got. Young people end up experiencing a difficult school-to-work transition, and businesses are unable to find suitable candidates for their positions.

Similarly, young people who have advanced degrees find themselves overqualified for their jobs, and many young people are also underemployed, meaning they work fewer hours than they would prefer. There is an economic as well as a personal cost here: young people are not being allowed to work to their full potential.

3. Lack of entrepreneurship and lifeskills education

While the exact cause of the skills mismatch is difficult to pin down, it’s a combination of school curriculums neglecting vocational, entrepreneurial and employability training in favour of more traditional academics, poor connections between the private sector and schools to promote training and work experience and a lack of instruction in how to harness lifeskills most students already have.

4. Lack of access to capital

Young people who want to make their own jobs by starting businesses often struggle to find access to affordable loans, or loans in general. This is partially due to a lack of collateral. High interest rates also make it difficult for young people to repay their loans on time. The World Bank notes that <1% of loan portfolios of loan providers are directed at those under the age of 30.

5. A digital divide

In some low-income countries, the skills mismatch is compounded by a lack of access to technology or the internet. If schools are unable to afford the tools to educate young people in the digital sector, these young people are at a disadvantage in the job market.

Youth unemployment solutions

1. Education and training programmes

Initiatives or extracurricular instruction that target the skills gap can focus on anything from employability skills to job hunting and interviewing to entrepreneurship to vocational education (including opportunities in the green economy). Ideally, in the future, these kinds of education will be embedded into national curricula, tackling the skills gap.

Examples of training programmes include our Work the Change initiative and Be the Change Academies, which provide young people with the skills they need to succeed in their careers.

2. Youth access to capital

For young people keen to get start-ups funded, they don’t have to rely on banks alone. Crowdfunding sites like and networks like Youth Business International give young people all over the world the chance to get the support they need to build their enterprises and increase their incomes. With more programmes like these being created every day, the future is getting brighter for aspiring entrepreneurs.

3. Universal internet access and greater availability of cheap tech

With programmes like Facebook’s working towards free internet access to key sites and Computer Aid providing IT education across 32 countries, this solution to the digital divide is coming along. However, infrastructure development (electrical grids, etc.) is obviously key to this goal. As lower-income nations develop these sectors, the digital divide will continue to be bridged.

4. Skills matching

The private sector, government and education systems need to start collaborating to determine what knowledge and skills young people should be taught in order to find rewarding work. Considering businesses are suffering from the skills mismatch, too, they need to take a more active role in promoting appropriate education and skill-building for young people from an early age.

Representatives from HR can provide career advice and give advice on job hunting, too. Social enterprise initiatives and non-profits are helping facilitate these connections, as are schools individually. However, wider efforts to involve the private sector in education are needed.

Achieving Sustainable Development Goal 8 and ensuring everyone is able to secure decent work means ending the youth unemployment crisis, working with young people and giving them the chance to maximise their potential.

Sources: The World Bank, IMF, Eurostat, ILO, The Guardian, The Work Foundation, European Commission

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