TWN Info Service on Finance and Development (Mar12/10)
31 March 2012
Third World Network

New UNICEF report on the global crisis and youth employment

A new report produced by the United Nations UNICEF agency analyzes how youth populations worldwide are experiencing a double employment crisis as a result of the demographic phenomenon known as the ‘youth bulge,’ which aggravates the already low demand for labour during the economic downturn.

Titled, “When the Global Crisis and Youth Bulge Collide: Double the Jobs Trouble for Youth,” the working paper describes recent labour market trends, explores the household level impacts of the jobs crisis, with particular attention to the severe risks posed to children and young workers and discusses policy responses during the two phases of the crisis—fiscal expansion (2008-09) and fiscal contraction (2010- ).

Finally, the report presents a UN agenda on how to generate decent employment, which covers macroeconomic and sector policy options along with labour-specific strategies to place jobs, especially for youth, at the center of recovery efforts.

The global economic crisis hit many countries just as they were experiencing a youth bulge -- a demographic trend where the proportion of persons aged 15-24 in the population increases significantly compared to other age groups. The youth bulge has severe implications for labour markets worldwide.

Each year, approximately 121 million adolescents turn 16 years old -- 89% of which are located in developing regions -- and can enter the world’s labour market. But most of those who want to work are unable to find jobs. Moreover, with nearly 1.1 billion new potential workers expected between 2012 and 2020, demographic forces will only exacerbate youth unemployment over time.

At the same time, the jobs crisis is also severely threatening children and poor households worldwide through higher incidences of hunger and malnutrition, illness, child labour, lower educational outcomes, children being unattended or abandoned, vulnerability to ongoing and future shocks, domestic violence and social unrest. The jobs crisis has further heightened the risk that workers, especially youth, are being permanently ‘scarred’ in terms of future employability and earnings potential.

The lack of employment opportunities for young persons, aggravated by the ‘youth bulge,’ should be a primary concern for policymakers. Generating jobs requires macroeconomic and sectoral policies that foster investment and aggregate demand, coupled with active and passive labour market policies, social protection and social dialogue, as endorsed by all governments at the UN.

However, these needed investments are incongruent with current fiscal consolidation trends. In 2012, 133 governments are undergoing expenditure contraction, which is dragging down economic growth prospects and casting increasing doubts on the ability of markets to generate new and decent jobs.

For countries affected by the double whammy of pervasive youth unemployment and a quickly growing supply of young labour, it is imperative that employment growth, especially for youth, becomes a top priority to ensure a ‘Recovery for All.

The full report is available at: