As many as 200 million people around the world want work and cannot find it, after almost four years of a global financial crisis and even some economic growth.
For the young, unemployment is not just cyclical, it is a chronic condition that is robbing them of a secure future and depriving society of their contributions towards a healthier and more economically productive society.
I find this unacceptable. We are in danger of losing a generation.
Despite many efforts to integrate young people into the workforce through training programmes and investments in education, over 75 million still have no formal job. Young people are three times more likely than adults to be unemployed.
In many places where unemployment is high, there is a mismatch between what employers need and the knowledge and skills young people possess. Educators need constant engagement with private companies to ensure they are teaching skills sought after in the marketplace. Equally important is removing the obstacles to job creation for small and medium-sized firms, which provide the bulk of employment in most economies.
We need a true public-private partnership as outlined in the upcoming report by the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Youth Unemployment. We propose linking educators, government regulators, private companies, civil society and students in a joint effort to make higher education and vocational training more relevant. We also need to improve the business climate so companies can grow and hire.
Take the case of Tunisia. Before the Arab Spring uprisings, I met with Tunisian Prime Minister Beji Caid el Sebsi, who asked for the World Bank’s help in reducing the 30% unemployment rate among his young citizens with university degrees. For these young people, higher education did not bring job opportunities, it only raised expectations the economy could not fulfil.
The prime minister believed a small country like Tunisia could be competitive in the information technology sector. But his country didn’t have the regulatory or investment climate to attract this industry.
In the 18 months since Tunisian fruit vendor Mohamed Bouazizi’s self-immolation spread protest across the Middle East and North Africa, the Tunisian people have gained a political voice; yet, unemployment remains as high as ever. A lot remains to be done to create economic opportunity. Our Council aims to contribute what we can to help Tunisia overcome these challenges.
Building on the work of e4e, a vocational education initiative from the International Finance Corporation and the Islamic Development Bank, our Council will undertake a pilot project to create a public-private network to improve education.
We aim to encourage investment from private sector providers in tertiary, vocational and work-readiness education and training programmes. Potentially, such providers could make direct investments into a venture fund.
We will work to improve the investment climate to enable greater private sector investment in education, entrepreneurship and SME development – an agenda which encompasses economic growth, access to finance, and competition.
This is only one of the initiatives of the Global Agenda Council on Youth Employment. I invite you to read the entire report.
Author: Lars Thunell is Executive Vice President and CEO of IFC
Image: People wait in line to enter a job fair in New York April 18, 2012. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton