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Global Youth Unemployment Hits Record Highs


A new report finds global youth unemployment has hit record levels. In its just released study on Global Employment Trends For Youth-2010, the International Labor Organization says a record 81 million young people aged 15 to 24 years were without work at the end of 2009 and this number is expected to increase this year. The release of the report coincides with the start of the UN International Youth Year on August 12.

The International Labor Organization says labor prospects for young people were fairly favorable until 2007. It says the number of jobless youth was steadily declining.

For 10 years prior to the current economic crisis, the report notes the number of unemployed youth increased, on average, by 200,000 a year. In comparison, youth unemployment increased by a staggering 6.7 million in 2009.

The report warns this trend will have significant consequences as more young people join the ranks of the already unemployed and become part of, what it calls, a lost generation of young people who have dropped out of the labor market.

ILO economist and co-author of the report, Sara Elder says youth unemployment is most severe in the developed economies and non-EU, Central and Southeastern Europe.

"In these two regions alone, we saw the highest increases, annual increases that we have ever seen for any region and we have been gathering these numbers since 1991," said Elder. "The youth unemployment rate of 17.7 percent in the developed economies marks the highest the region has ever seen."

ILO data shows youth unemployment increased by 45 percent in developed economies, though only 10 percent of the global youth labor force lives there. The report notes underemployment and poverty are the biggest problems in developing countries where roughly 90 percent of the world's young people live.

ILO Economist and co-author, Steven Kapsos, says governments in developing countries do not provide unemployment benefits to young people out of work. So, young people have no choice. He says they have to work and most of them end up in the informal economy.

"So, these are young people that are working very hard, but typically in low productivity employment and they still live in extreme poverty," said Kapsos. "And, for the first time, we are able to put a number to this, which we have done in this report. We estimate that 152 million youth were classified as working poor in 2008 and that is based on the standard international $1.25 per day poverty line. That is equal to 28 percent of all young workers around the world."

The ILO forecasts slight improvements in youth unemployment for almost all regions next year. The only exception, it says is in the Middle East and North Africa where youth unemployment is expected to increase. The report says the largest decrease of one percentage point in youth unemployment rates is expected for Central and South Eastern Europe and the former States of the Soviet Union.

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