Youth emplyobility in five questions
Employability: By this, we mean the challenge for young people to participate fully on the labour market. Five clarifying questions and answers.
What is youth employability?
The concept of youth employability refers to the possibilities for young people to find and keep decent work: no temporary jobs, but employment in the formal sector on the basis of a (permanent) contract. To achieve this there have to be job opportunities, but young people must also be able to acquire the right skills for those jobs. In other words, finding employment and keeping it by remaining attractive for employers.
What does the challenge of youth employability entail?
Many developing nations are struggling with high unemployment. Youths especially are having a hard time finding work. In addition, many countries are faced with a strong population growth, which contributes to the increasing number of unemployed young people. As a result, many youths are forced to resort to jobs in the informal economy, which typically come with low wages and poor working conditions. Other young people leave their country hoping to find (better) work elsewhere, or end up committing crimes. Such a start at the labour market is disastrous for the further career of young people. The entire situation poses a threat to the economic development of many countries. After all, young people are the future... but what if they are not there (any more) or do not get the opportunity to build that future?
Why is youth employability such a big challenge?
Unemployment among young people is not simply caused by a lack of jobs. Many countries have job opportunities, but youths do not qualify because they lack the right knowledge and skills. Educational programmes often do not meet the demands of the labour market. Additionally, young people struggle to find job vacancies, let alone know what kind of jobs are available, and so make the wrong study choices. Lack of experience is another issue. Employers want experienced workers. But because young people are seldom given the opportunity to gain this experience, they are left out in the cold.
What can trade unions do to help solve the issue?
Trade unions might not be able to create job opportunities themselves, but they can help boost the employability of young job seekers. They can lobby national governments and employers for better vocational training, internships and work experience placements. Furthermore, they can help the young people to organise themselves better, in order to give them a voice to defend their interests. Trade unions can also help equip the youths better in their search for employment, for example with job interview training and by telling them where to find vacancies.
What can governments and employers do?
National authorities can develop a policy aimed at youth employability and labour market reforms. Although many countries have some type of specific policy or targeted projects, they are often plagued by insufficient support from the relevant stakeholders (such as the business community) and inadequate budgets for the required investments. The result is that such plans and projects often fail prematurely. Employers can contribute by creating internships, and of course by giving young people a chance when they have a job opening. Finally, governments hold the key to better education.