World Bank: Many Millennials May Never Be Able to Land a Decent Job

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Protesters chant slogans during a massive anti-austerity rally in front of the Greek parliament in Athens on November 1, 2014.
Photo: LOUISA GOULIAMAKI

The World Bank’s new report on youth unemployment predicts economic and social troubles to come if young people around the globe lack hope for a decent future.

The 155-page analysis paints a grim picture of the challenges facing the world’s 1.8 billion young people. The unemployment rate among workers 15 to 29 is in the double digits worldwide, and across the Middle East, the average unemployment rate is approaching 30 percent, according to the International Labor Organization, a co-author of the report. Half a billion people within the cohort were unemployed, underemployed, or working insecure jobs in 2014. 

To keep pace, 600 million new jobs will have to be created over the next 10 years, the World Bank estimates.

In part, this is the result of improved public health: As life expectancy increased dramatically worldwide, older workers stay in their jobs longer, and more young people live to working age. Meanwhile, many youths are either underqualified or overqualified for the employment opportunities in their countries.

In emerging economies that are progressively more service-based, employers find a workforce population that lacks necessary skills,” the report said. “Elsewhere, the problem is that many of the unemployed are highly educated but the market demands different competencies or more technical or vocational skills.”

A continued crisis in youth unemployment will imperil the entire global economy. “Unemployment at an early age can negatively affect future earnings and increase the likelihood of later joblessness,” the World Bank writes. “As prospects dwindle, many face social exclusion, or see their emotional, mental, or physical health deteriorate.”

Nearly one-third of the world’s young adults are not participating in the labor force nor in any educational or vocational program, according to the report. If the global economy fails to provide these young people with employment opportunities, they will drain governments’ tax revenues and safety-net programs today and into the future, the report warns.

What’s more, a generation without disposable income is a generation incapable of providing the consumer demand that sustains economic growth. Excluded from opportunity within the system, many might seek alternative solutions for social organization— criminal, religious, or ideological— leading to unrest.

The links between economic participation, inequality, and community security, crime, and national fragility — while not new — are becoming clearer,” the report said. “The Arab Spring and subsequent youth-led uprisings in Venezuela, Turkey, Brazil, Hong Kong, and elsewhere, along with the rise of economic insurgency and youth extremism, demand that we inspect these links through a lens focused on youth.”