International Youth Day 2014

Ryder: "The mental health of young people matters to us all"

Statement | 12 August 2014
Today some 75 million young people are unemployed globally and more than 220 million young workers are struggling for survival in the informal economy and living in extreme poverty. Young people are, on average, three times more likely to be unemployed than adults – in some places it escalates to four and five times more. Many others are disconnecting from the labour market.

The youth employment crisis is a multidimensional crisis. This is undoubtedly a stressful time for young people and in some cases even more so for young women. The theme of this year’s International Youth Day observance “mental health matters” is, therefore, timely.

The scenario of widespread and persistent unemployment or under-employment may leave young people with a sense of growing despair and hopelessness and in a state of heightened vulnerability. The indications are that mental health difficulties have become widespread among youth in recent years. For instance, in many OECD countries up to one in four young people is affected. Furthermore, some young people develop mental health difficulties (such as post-traumatic stress disorders) in situations such as (hazardous) child labour, working for example as soldiers in armed conflict, often under duress, or child prostitution.

Disadvantaged youth, including those with mental health problems, face particular difficulties on the job market. Young people with severe mental health difficulties are less likely to be employed and more likely to be inactive than other youth; and when they are at work, they are more likely to be in low-paid jobs. High job-turnover and reluctance to inform employers about their disabilities may leave these young people with emotional disturbances and in a vulnerable situation throughout their working lives.

Stable and decent employment has an essential role to play in providing young people with a sense of identity."
Young people neither in school nor at work are particularly vulnerable to depression, and other types of mental health problems. This in turn has an adverse impact on their capacity to learn and to find decent employment.

Stable and decent employment has an essential role to play in providing young people with a sense of identity, of inclusion and of direction. Young people with mental health difficulties can be integrated into society and the labour market and they must not be forgotten in efforts to expand opportunities for decent and productive work. In addition, many mental health difficulties can be prevented or reduced if young people are provided with appropriate tools and support to overcome the many challenges of their transition into the labour market. For this reason, the ILO supports the development and implementation of labour market measures that target these young people and are accompanied by support services such as psycho-social and career counselling, as well as coaching during the first period on the job.

The mental health of young people matters to us all. Let us build our policies and programmes for youth employment with this in mind.