Egypt, Spain & Far Beyond: Youth Unemployment

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,,, at 6/05/2012 04:08:00 PM
As an educator, I believe there is a personal responsibility on my part to ensure that my students are able to find gainful employment. I am not paid so that those seeking work won't be...simple as that. While there are others in academia who see themselves as  "preparing people for life outside of work" instead of "preparing people for working life," I must disagree. The hoity-toity idea of a liberal education being removed from the humdrum existence of everyday life has deep roots starting from ancient Greece. But, the ubiquity of capitalism and democracy--both disliked by then Greeks way back when (and arguably even today[!])--necessitates a practical approach. That is, contemplating higher pursuits in life doesn't quite work if you don't have the means to support it. To get all structuralist on you, someone must have laboured to erect those ivory towers.

Unfortunate college-educated unemployed and underemployed aside, what does this have to do with IPE, you ask? Plenty. Egypt has been paralyzed by unemployed youth with nothing better to do than protest again and again. So they overthrew Mubarak, but things have gotten even worse economically. Some change, and certainly not the sort you'd expect to help land jobs for the youth. Same thing in Spain: With the unemployment rate for those aged 15-24 reportedly above 50%, headlines numbers like these are hardly inspiring. While the relationship between youth unemployment and economic crisis is complex, you can at the very least say that high rates of the former are indicative of the latter.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) has a neat publication from late last year that notes that these trends are not unique to certain troubled countries but are evident the world over. For another woeful statistic, consider that about 40% of those unemployed worldwide are the youth:
Of the world's estimated 207 million unemployed people in 2010, nearly 40 per cent – about 75 million – were between 15 and 24 years of age. In many countries, this grim unemployment picture is further aggravated by the large number of youth engaged in poor quality and low paid jobs, often in the informal economy. Many youth are poor or underemployed: some 228 million working poor youth in the world, live on less than the equivalent of US$ 2 per day.
The abstract does not hide the bleak global situation:
In August 2010, the ILO published the Global Employment Trends for Youth: Special issue on the impact of the global economic crisis on youth. The report presented an analysis of the latest available world and regional aggregates of key labour market indicators for young people aged 15 to 24 years, with a specific focus on how young people fared in the face of the recent global economic crisis. One year later, with an environment of growing uncertainty in the economic recovery and stalled recovery in the job market, the ILO revisits the much publicized youth labour market figures and draws the unfortunate conclusion that the situation facing youth in the labour market has not improved and that prospects for the future are not much better. Not only do youth unemployment rates continue to rise in developed economies, but also the increasing length of the job search is leading some young people to become discouraged and fall out of the labour force entirely. In developing regions, on the other hand, many young people continue to work while living in conditions of extreme poverty.
It is certainly worrisome in a number of senses. First, where has all the education gone? Despite massive increases in enrollment the world over, it has been noted that work opportunities remain scarce for supposedly better-educated people. The ILO publication makes for a very sobering read that suggests such employment for youth is often the exception rather than the rule--especially nowadays. Second, various nations being unable to accommodate their justifiably angry youngsters is a political-economic threat of the highest order. 

There is certainly no lack of poster children for dysfunctional education systems nowadays alike erstwhile models the Anglo-Saxons. While it may have few answers, the ILO report at least suggests where to start. Make no mistake, youth unemployment is no small issue, and it's certainly one with severe ramifications the world over if it continues unaddressed. Ask Tunisia, Egypt, Greece and Spain...I fear this list will run and run.