Unemployment, and crucially, underemployment, is a challenge faced by young people around the world.
With young people four times more likely to be out of work, it is hard to deny that we have a youth employment crisis. This is despite decades of employment programmes and initiatives targeting young people. Urgent solutions are needed to meet the challenge to create the estimated 600 million new jobs that will be needed by 2030.
Last year, as part of Restless Development’s work with the Solutions for Youth Employment (S4YE) coalition, I travelled to India and Colombia to hear from young people their ideas for how to solve this crisis, and what their role should be in leading the response.
In Colombia I met Lina, a 26-year-old marketing intern living in Bogotá, who shared her passion for changing attitudes of employers towards young people.
She said: “As millennials we present magnificent qualities that have not been explored by many, mainly for fear of difference and the unknown. We are young people full of energy, with desire to learn and contribute. We are active, creative, and eager to eat the world, but many have closed their doors.”
Young people in Colombia also highlighted the inequalities faced by young people outside the capital. Julio from Sandonar, near the Ecuador border, encourages young people to create their own jobs by taking up much forgotten traditional handicrafts.
He added: “We see entrepreneurship as an opportunity to improve the quality of life for us and our families, of course with a vision of building a country. However, the lack of technical and economic resources limits the progress of our projects.”
On the other side of the world, Sunidhi, a 24-year-old co-founder of Reaching Sky Foundation, working in the Delhi slums, believes young people, quality education and empowerment are the solutions to avoid stagnation in the job market.
She said: “Youth issues are many but the source is one. It is challenging but it is not impossible to turn our wishful thinking into reality. We have created our challenges and we are the only solution. We need to conquer our fear and have faith in our dream of a better us, and better world, by keeping our big hopes and big actions stronger.”
In India I also met Alex, a 22-year-old student from Tamil Nadu who founded a youth movement to create awareness of self-sufficiency and established a community shop selling produce made by young people.
He said: “The youth need to be enabled to become job generators then job seekers. I believe that a sustainable livelihood can achieve the economic development and it helps to attain the national development.”
These are only four examples of young people taking action to tackle youth unemployment in their communities, however they demonstrate that young people have many of the solutions that the public, private and third sector are looking for, and young people have the initiative and drive to take these forward.
Crucially, young people I spoke with, want to lead these solutions, by meaningfully working alongside governments, employers and civil society, to ensure all young people, in every country, can access decent and productive work.
Jenny Bowie is our Global Capacity Building Manager based in London. You can read more about Restless Development’s work with the Solutions for Youth Employment Coalition in this news article.