In an attempt to raise awareness and drive conversations around the importance of developing and investing in youth skills, the United Nations General Assembly sets aside the month of July as the World Youth Skills day (WYSD). This year’s commemoration is significant as it is a period when according to the United Nations more young people are prone to unemployment as well as exposure to low quality jobs, labour market inequalities, and insecure school-work transitions.
According to Plan International, youth unemployment is a global issue that has manifested itself in the following stark realities;
- 628 million young people ages 15-24 years old are not in education, employment or training.
- 75 million young people are trained but have no jobs.
- In the next decade, one billion young people will enter the labour market, and a good number of them will face a future of irregular and informal employment.
- 600 million jobs are needed for young people in the next decade.
- Youth are approximately three times more likely to be unemployed than adults.
- It is estimated that 23% of young people currently employed in the world actually earn less than $1.25US a day.
Ordinarily, these issues can be addressed with proper education and training for new entrants into the labour market, but with existing failing systems and institutions that are ill-equipped to address the learning needs of young people, this intervention by the United Nations will in its own way contribute to resulting in significant change in the current state of unemployment around the world. The question therefore remains; how can the largest generation of youth in history who make up almost 50% of the global workforce explore alternative means to traditional job creation strategies?
In this year’s conversations, the focus was on how innovation and emerging technologies can transform the labour markets and how the youth population can develop the relevant skills required to function in developing economies and drive sustainable growth in their respective industries. WYSD aligns with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030, which among other goals proposes two goals for education and skills for employment.
Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.
Goal 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.
In a book published by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) titled Rising to the Youth employment Challenge: New evidence on Key Policy Issues, the focus is on the global challenge of youth unemployment, proposing policies that can create more decent jobs for young people. Among other things the book opines that for societies to experience success, new trends and policies need to be examined and adopted at the macroeconomic level to address the issues of concern. The focus should not solely depend on a single intervention but should rather examine different ways for more effective combination of institutions and interventions.
Over the years, most interventions in this part of the world have majorly been focused on promoting self-employment and entrepreneurship among young people. In Nigeria we have the Youth Entrepreneurship Support (YES) Programme spearheaded by the Bank of Industry (BOI) aimed at “building the capacity of youths and funding their business ideas.” The Central Bank of Nigeria also has the Youth Entrepreneurship Development Programme (YEDP) geared towards enhancing “the deployment of the ingenuity and resourcefulness of Nigerian youths for maximum economic development.” Others are the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme (TEEP), YouWin Connect Nigeria, Diamond Bank BET Programme, Lagos State Entrepreneurs Trust Fund (LSETF) among others.
While these initiatives are laudable in their own rights, they have more or less been regarded as a coping mechanism for most individuals and families who lack the desired opportunities for employment. Accordingly, the focus of the initiatives and funding interventions should be more qualitative as these programmes on their own are not a guarantee for dealing with the issues of providing decent work for the youth population in the country. As much as they may suffice in giving a selected few a boost in supporting their aspirations, how well have these programmes been able to accommodate the teeming number of young unemployed people who are not so fortunate to have similar entrepreneurial aspirations? They are however a valuable accompaniment to other interventions like a proper and thorough skills training, mentorship and internship engagements, as well as wage subsidies to cater to the larger number of the unemployed youth population.
In keeping with the growing trends and prevalent issues, the World Youth Skills Day initiative is advocating for more youth participation in climate action because climate change poses both a huge challenge and also offers immense opportunities for young people. As much as promoting entrepreneurship in young people is important, empowering them to take a stand on issues of climate change will yield more productive results. According to the United Nations Climate Change (UNCC), it is believed that if greenhouse gas emissions continue to take the upward rise we are currently witnessing, the impacts will worsen and future generations will have to deal with the greater part of the consequences.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) in a recent paper on Innovations for Decent Jobs For Youth, highlights the priority areas in developing a roadmap that will create more opportunities for employment and decent jobs for the youth population. These, in order of priority and addressing pressing issues include;
- Promoting and building skills for green jobs for youth
- Developing digital skills
- Providing opportunities for internships and apprenticeships
- Solutions for youth in fragile situations
- Initiating for youth transitioning to the formal economy
- Programmes for youth in the rural economy
- Youth entrepreneurship and self-employment
- Young workers in hazardous occupations
Consequently, solving the menace of youth unemployment requires key stakeholders including but not limited to the governments, social partners, the UN systems, youth and civil society, the private sector regional institutions, parliamentarians, foundations, academia and the media to invest in both qualitative and quantitative interventions for youth employment.
Although there have been well meaning efforts in the past there is need for specific focus on major areas of concern. Moreover, opportunities in green technology and digitization are the major current trends in both emerging and developed economies. An inclusive alliance with the international communities as well as partnerships between relevant stakeholders and individuals on ILO’s priority areas will result in collaborative action that will ultimately guarantee the desired solutions to a sustainable future in our respective communities.