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ILO Fights Global Youth Unemployment Crisis

  • Margaret Besheer

FILE - About 100 unemployed people with university degrees demonstrated outside Tunisia's Kasbah government building in Tunis, May 24, 2012.

FILE - About 100 unemployed people with university degrees demonstrated outside Tunisia's Kasbah government building in Tunis, May 24, 2012.

The International Labor Organization is launching a program to find decent, sustainable jobs for the world's 74 million unemployed youths.

Director-General Guy Ryder said the world is facing a "global employment crisis," which is disproportionately affecting young men and women.

"If you're under 25 years old, you are three times more likely to be unemployed as other adults," he told VOA.

Women in particular face difficulties, with more menial, informal work and lower pay. Worldwide, women earn 20 percent less than men for the same work.

"Every year, 40 million new young people join the labor market,” Ryder said. “We are not growing quickly enough to absorb them."

Quality, not just quantity

The ILO initiative seeks to work with governments, the U.N. system, the private sector, academic institutions, youth organizations and other groups to help young people develop needed skills and to create new work opportunities for them.

FILE - Jobless archeology graduates protest in demand of jobs in the Egyptian museum, in Cairo, Egypt, Feb 16, 2011.

FILE - Jobless archeology graduates protest in demand of jobs in the Egyptian museum, in Cairo, Egypt, Feb 16, 2011.

"We have to look not just at the quantity of jobs … but the quality," Ryder added.

Ryder said every sector should be tapped in the quest for job creation. He noted that agricultural jobs are often seen as second rate, compared to working in urban industries.

"We want to make the rural economy a place where decent work is available," he said.

Ryder also points out that the push to a greener economy — one with clean technologies, renewable energy and a less harmful impact on the planet — offers "enormous potential" for new environmentally-linked jobs.

And for those who worry that new technologies are replacing humans in the workforce, Ryder says not to fear.

"That's not necessarily the case,” he said. “It can be the case, but depending on how we manage them, these technologies can also be a source of new jobs."

Challenges

Creating jobs in a sluggish global economy won't be easy.

The World Economic Social Outlook report released last month found growth of only 3.1 percent in 2015. A steep drop in commodity and energy prices and the slowdown in global trade did not help, and those factors are starting to push global unemployment figures up.

"We all know it's a big problem," Ryder said of youth unemployment. "The challenge now is to turn that recognition of the problem into action on the scale required to address that problem, and that's what this initiative that we are launching is designed to try to do."

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