A recent International Labour Organisation report shows 73.4 million young people (12.6 %) expected to be out of work worldwide in 2013, an increase of 3.5 million between 2007 and 2013 and youth three times as likely to be unemployed than adults.
Now reaching unprecedented levels in Greece 64% and Portugal 43%, youth joblessness has increased by almost 25% in the European Union between 2008 and 2012, reaching a decade‐long high of 18.1% in 2012. In the OECD countries, one in six young people are also classified as NEET –without a job and not in education or training. The increase in youth unemployment is also reflected in its duration. In OECD countries, more than one‐third of unemployed youth had been unemployed for at least six months in 2011.
The ILO claims that the long-term impact of the youth employment crisis could be felt for decades and that more and more young people are now withdrawing from the labour market by giving up the search for work – resulting in long term scarring, but also increasing distrust in socio‐economic and political systems.
The ILO report also highlights an increasing mismatch between qualifications held by young people and the jobs available – a point we highlight in The Great Reversal . This reflects the increased competition for jobs, more than it reflects any lack of skill.
‘Evidence from advanced economies shows that young people (aged 15–29) are far more exposed to overeducation than workers aged 30 and above, and are also less likely to be undereducated. Overeducation of youth in advanced economies increased by 1.5 percentage points in the period 2002 to 2010, reflecting in part increases in educational attainment. However, the strong increase in overeducation in the past two years (by 1.4 percentage points) suggests another consequence of the economic crisis: youth with higher levels of education are increasingly taking up jobs that they are overqualified to do. The growing phenomenon of overeducation therefore implies a crowding out of youth at the bottom of the educational pyramid. The less‐educated youth find themselves at the back of the queue even for those jobs for which they are best qualified’ (p8).
Although, as the ILO report recognises that ‘undereducation’ – a lack of educational qualifications and opportunities – still inhibits young people in many developing economies where there is still a tendency to leave school early: ‘Labour markets for young people in developing economies are very different from those in developed economies’ (p9).
As we argue in The Great Reversal, this does not mean that we shouldn’t try to reform and improve education or that we should not encourage young people to remain in full-time learning, but it does mean that we can’t educate our way out of recession and need specific employment policies for young people within a more general ‘plan B+’ for economic regeneration.