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Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth

Guy Ryder announces Global Youth Initiative

A unique global partnership aims to lift the economic prospects of young people entering the workforce.

News | 01 February 2016
NEW YORK (ILO News) – Amid the global youth employment crisis – characterized by unprecedented levels of unemployment, poor quality and low paying jobs – the UN system is launching an ambitious initiative to generate decent jobs for youth and to assist in their transition from school-to-work.

The Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth was launched at UN headquarters today by Guy Ryder, the Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO), at the opening of the UN’s annual Youth Forum.

In describing the Initiative, Ryder stated that it is a unique partnership with governments, the UN system, businesses, academic institutions, youth organizations and other groups to scale-up action to create new opportunities and avenues for quality employment in the global economy and “assist young people in developing the skills needed to compete in today’s job market”.

With more than twenty Ministers of Youth and over 500 youth delegates in attendance, Ryder encouraged youth to become “fully engaged” and be active agents of change. “Your voices reflect the aspirations of young people everywhere. Your voices must be heard and acted upon if we are to shape inclusive and sustainable societies, challenging injustices and inequalities and opening pathways to peace, progress and prosperity for all.”

Today, two out of every five young persons of working age are either unemployed or working jobs that don’t pay enough to escape poverty."

Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General
But the sobering reality could not be ignored. “Today, two out of every five young persons of working age are either unemployed or working jobs that don’t pay enough to escape poverty. The trap of working poverty affects as many as 169 million youth. In low-income countries, the situation is even worse where nine in ten young workers remain in informal employment which is sporadic, poorly paid and falls outside the protection of law,” said Ryder.

The UN’s Chief Executives Board for Coordination, comprised of the 29 Heads of all UN entities, have endorsed this initiative as a key priority. Additionally, the challenge of youth employment was included as a central goal in the UN’s ambitious new development vision as outlined in the recently adopted 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

In consultation with governments, the initiative will coordinate employment and economic policies for job growth and social inclusion and protect labour rights to ensure that young people receive equal treatment. The Initiative will make full use of the expertise of participating UN entities and other partners by focusing on “green jobs” for youth, quality apprenticeships, digital skills and the building of “tech-hubs”, support young people in the rural economy, facilitate transition from the informal to the formal economy and promote youth entrepreneurship.

During the Youth Forum, the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, Ahmad Alhendawi, stated that “the launching of this timely initiative reflects the UN commitment to tackle youth unemployment and promote decent jobs for youth. It also reflects that youth employment should be a priority at all levels to unlock the potential of 1.8 billion youth, a recipe that is imperative for development, as well as peace and security.”

For young people, the search for good jobs has proven to be difficult with many of the available jobs often not meeting their expectations. While the youth unemployment situation in the advanced economies has started to ease slightly, the increasing trend in temporary work among young people is a worrying sign of more trouble ahead.

Our challenge is to continuously find new and innovative solutions as we look into the future of work."

Guy Ryder
Research has shown that the lack of good jobs leads people to turn to informal employment or accept a job that does not use their higher level skills which can lead to low levels of productivity and skills obsolescence, making them less competitive and increasing the danger of young people dropping out of the workforce all together.

The UN Youth Forum, convened by the Economic and Social Council, is a two-day event that brings together young leaders from around the world and provides a platform for youth to engage in dialogue with governments and contribute to policy formulation on global economic, social and environmental issues.

In closing, Ryder stated that all partners engaged in this initiative must also “keep pace with rapid technological developments that are impacting the labour markets and the skills we need in so many different ways. Our challenge is to continuously find new and innovative solutions as we look into the future of work. The challenge is clear and our response should be equally clear and resolute.”