The tragedy of youth unemployment crisis
- Kamran Mofid
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Youth, between the ages of 15 and 24, make up 17% of the global population but they form 40% of the unemployed, a figure that doesn't include those enrolled in school. The Middle East and North Africa region has the highest youth unemployment rate, with one in four young people unemployed, driving social unrest. Youth unemployment is even higher in some parts of Europe (see below).With nearly 4 million under-25s in the euro area jobless and many more millions under-employed, the plight and struggles of the young people in Europe and indeed the world over must be a scar on our conscious, humanity and moral compass.
According to the latest survey (2013) the eurozone jobless data showed Spain’s youth unemployment at 57.4%, only marginally below Greece’s 58%. Italy’s rate is 41.2%, whilst in Portugal it is 36.5%, and in the UK is 21%.
In contrast to what the selfish and arrogant politicians, as well as the cheap tabloids tell us, the much-maligned Millennial generation isn't feckless. They aren't lazy. They want to continue their educations, receive employment training and participate productively in the workforce. But they're hampered by weak economies, austerity, discrimination and inequality of opportunity.
High youth unemployment causes immediate and long-term economic damage. It means young adults take longer to get married, buy homes and begin families. In the long run, it means slower economic growth and lower tax receipts. Countries with prolonged high levels of youth unemployment risk social instability.
Things aren't altogether better for young people who do find jobs. Young adults entering employment in periods of economic weakness receive lower salaries and are more likely to work lower-skilled jobs than those who begin work during better times. As a result, they can earn 10 to 15% less than they might otherwise have for 10 years or longer after entering the workforce.
However, as well as economic consequences of youth unemployment, to themselves and to the society at large, there is a much bigger tragedy that has also fallen on the youth. That is, the consequences of unemployment on their physical and mental health.
Long-term unemployment leads to depression and other problem conditions, including self-harming, suicidal thoughts, alcohol and drug abuse, amongst others.
One of the saddest aspects of all this is that so many young people feel that they have nothing to live for, with more than one in five believing that they are "a waste of space".
The Consequences of long-tern youth unemployment: A British Study
As many as three quarters of a million young people in the UK may feel that they have nothing to live for, a study for the Prince's Trust charity claims. The trust says almost a third of long-term unemployed young people have contemplated taking their own lives.
The Prince's Trust Macquarie Youth Index was based on interviews with 2,161 16 to 25-year-olds. Of these, 281 were classified as Neet (not in employment, education or training) and 166 of these Neets had been unemployed for over six months.
The report found 9% of all respondents agreed with the statement: "I have nothing to live for". All said, then, if 9% of all youngsters felt the same, it would equate to some 751,230 young people feeling they had nothing to live for. Among those respondents classified as Neet, the percentage of those agreeing with the statement rose to 21%.
The research found that long-term unemployed young people were more than twice as likely as their peers to have been prescribed anti-depressants. One in three (32%) had contemplated suicide, while one in four (24%) had self-harmed.
The report found 40% of jobless young people had faced symptoms of mental illness, including suicidal thoughts, feelings of self-loathing and panic attacks, as a direct result of unemployment. Three quarters of long-term unemployed young people (72%) did not have someone to confide in, the study found.
Martina Milburn, chief executive of the Prince's Trust, said: "Unemployment is proven to cause devastating, long-lasting mental health problems among young people.
"Thousands wake up every day believing that life isn't worth living, after struggling for years in the dole queue. More than 440,000 young people are facing long-term unemployment, and it is these young people that urgently need our help. If we fail to act, there is a real danger that these young people will become hopeless, as well as jobless”
One example of the devastaing consequences of the long-term youth unemployment is that of Chris Newell (see below)
Chris Newell's story
Excluded from school at the age of 14, Chris had no qualifications. He was applying for 10 jobs a week but did not even get responses. He turned to drink and drugs and at the age of 20, tried to take his own life.
"I just got into a cycle of staying in bed because I had nothing to wake up for. Then I began noticing my mental health getting worse and worse. I became depressed and anxious. When I went out in public it got to the point where I felt paranoid and edgy around people.
"And I think that's all because I didn't have a routine and structure, because I think that's important in a lot of people's lives, to have something to wake up for in the morning, to have something to live for. I just felt horrible about myself.
"I were suicidal at times coz I felt worthless and it just went on and on and I weren't getting anywhere. I took a load of tablets and thankfully I'm still here. But at the time I didn't think that, 'cause I were at an all time low, I were at rock bottom for a long time. And being out of work, you know, contributed to that."
The Prince’s Trust is now calling for urgent support from government, health agencies and employers to fund its vital work with long-term unemployed young people battling mental health issues. With more support the youth charity can help more young people build their self-esteem and move into work.
In short, we must all come together: policymakers, businesses, universities and colleges, local authorities, nonprofits, and more to begin to address, seriously and objectively, the youth unemployment crisis by creating jobs; helping young people build skills needed for work, including technical and vocational skills and entrepreneurship; and ensuring youth receive an adequate education.
It will fall to the youth of the world to build the better world we are all dreaming about and aiming for. The hundreds and hundreds of young people I meet every year have showed me their passion, energy, commitment to equality and to environmental sustainability, and above, I know that with all their optimism they are eager to take on the task. The task of building a better and fairer world. A world for the common good.
We must do everything possible today to give young people the skills, education and employment experiences they're asking for. If we do, I am confident that the future will see a world where environmentally sustainable economic development is the norm; a world where we've ended extreme poverty and hunger; a world where women and men have achieved social equality everywher; and a world more tolerant, more peaceful, and more just.
That is the world today's youth wish to bulid. Let's give them the tools to build it. Let’s realise the dream together. Let’s be for the common good. Let us serve our children and grandchildren. This is our moral and spiritual call.