Relentlessly high youth unemployment is proving to be a persistent challenge for the government, employers, trade unions, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and most importantly, young people themselves.

Today’s labour market is tough, and young people need help and support to find (and remain in) work

On 4th November, Randstad released the results of a global youth unemployment report, based on the responses of 73.4 million unemployed young people from all sectors across the EU, US, Canada, Australia and Japan. 

The full report can be viewed here.

Key findings prove that young people aged 15 to 24 from across the globe are having a much harder time finding work than the same age group did in 2007.

And more worryingly still, the amount of young people finding themselves disconnected from education and the jobs market is increasing. So much so, that by 2018 the global youth unemployment rate is projected to rise to 12.8 per cent (from 12.6 per cent in 2013). 

The weakening of global recovery in 2012 and 2013 has further aggravated the crisis, and queues for available jobs have become longer and longer for some unfortunate jobseekers.

A disheartening lack of opportunity sees many young people giving up on their job search altogether

Coping with unemployment is difficult for everyone. But for low-skilled young people - especially those who have left school without qualifications - failure to find a first job or keep it for long can have negative long-term consequences on their career prospects – a phenomenon that some experts refer to as “scarring”.

Youth unemployment and its scarring effects are particularly prevalent in Developed Economies and the European Union, as well as the Middle East and North Africa.

In these regions youth unemployment rates have continued to soar since 2008; increasing by as much as 24.9 per cent in the Developed Economies and European Union between 2008 and 2012, and settling at a decades-long high of 18.1 per cent in 2012. 

Current projections predict that the youth unemployment rate in Developed Economies and the European Union will not drop below 17 per cent before 2016.

The mismatch between skills/education and jobs is largely to blame for EU youth unemployment

The report shows that both the supply and demand of skills, and a mismatch between the skills that young people possess and those required by their jobs, plays a significant role in our country’s inability to quell increasing youth unemployment rates.

In advanced economies like ours, the evidence shows that there is a higher risk of a mismatch for those at the bottom of the educational pyramid, which is reflected in relatively high unemployment rates for the low-skilled in comparison with the high-skilled.

Evidence from advanced economies also shows that young people (aged 15–29) are far more exposed to over-education than workers aged 30 and above (this portion increased by 1.5% between 2002 and 2010, and a further +1.4% in the past 2 years), and are less likely to be undereducated.

Highly educated young people are increasingly taking on jobs that they’re overqualified to do, meaning that the less-educated portion find themselves at the back of the queue even for those jobs which they are best qualified.

What needs to be done to tackle the multiple causes of youth unemployment?

The report urges governments, with the involvement of business and unions, to continue to focus on cost-effective measures for youth in the recovery. Some recommendations for focus areas in 2015 include:

  • Job-search assistance programs - a cost-effective solution that supports young people who are assessed as ready to work 
  • Temporary extensions of the safety net - vital to prevent poverty among unemployed youth
  • Apprenticeship and other dual vocational education and training (VET) programs - these appear to provide effective school- to-work pathways, particularly for secondary students

Meanwhile, young people (supported by the education system) should focus on acquiring skills that the job markets of today demand, such as IT proficiency and basic technical qualifications. 

Facilitating the school-to-work transition and improving labour market prospects for all young people should remain at the top of the political agenda in all OECD countries.

Download the full white paper for greater insight into global youth unemployment.