Youth joblessness surging, OECD warns

Group calls for policies to prevent a ‘lost youth generation’

Globe and Mail Update
Published on Wednesday, Apr. 21, 2010 9:21AM EDT

Youth joblessness has surged across the industrialized world, and is likely to stay high for the next two years, the OECD has warned.

Young people were hit especially hard through the global economic crisis, with the jobless rate among OECD countries jumping to almost 19 per cent last year, from around 13 per cent before the recession.

Nearly 15 million youths, those between 15 and 24, are now unemployed across the area. In countries like France and Italy, one in four are jobless. In Spain, it’s 40 per cent. Even Canada - which saw a milder recession than elsewhere - youth jobless levels have shot up to 15.6 per cent, and actually crept higher last month.

And it’s not going to improve any time soon, the report said.

“The short-term prospects for youth unemployment in the OECD countries remain rather gloomy,” the 34-page report said. Youth were “among the first to lose their jobs and are finding it particularly difficult to get another one.”

While most economies are mending, recoveries are expected to be rather “shallow” this year. Given the large amount of slack in many economies, job creation will lag.

Against this backdrop, the youth unemployment rate “is expected to stay at a high level over the next two years and many unemployed youth are likely to experience a prolonged period of joblessness.”

That’s troubling on a number of fronts. For disadvantaged youth who lack basic education, failing to find work can have long-term consequences on their careers - a term known as “scarring.”

Other long-term effects of prolonged joblessness include impacts on happiness, job satisfaction and health in the ensuing years.

“Policies to prevent a ‘lost youth generation’ are a must,” said Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General, in a meeting in Washington Tuesday.

Youth search online and on a job board at YES Youth Employment Services in Toronto, Ont. Feb. 6/2009.

The agency recommends a number of programs to help youth, including bolstering apprenticeships, giving them income support while they continue their job search, boosting access to training programs and encouraging kids to stay in school longer.

Countries should also consider the impact of temporary contracts - positions in which youth are overly represented.

“While for many these contracts are stepping stones into permanent jobs, for others they tend to be dead ends,” the report said.

It recommended cutting the gap between regulations for temporary and permanent contracts, to smooth transition of newcomers, including youth, from entry-level jobs with short duration to more stable jobs that offer a good career prospect.

The Paris-based Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development has 30 member countries.