United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today spotlighted the “grave and growing problem” of unemployed youth and called for a broad-based response involving governments, unions, businesses and civil society at large.
Addressing the fourth European Union/Latin America and Caribbean Heads of State Summit, being held in Vienna, he warned that the failure to deliver jobs can weaken faith in democracy, and undermine popular support for reasonable economic reforms.
“Today, such discontent is palpable in many parts of Latin America, where high unemployment has led to reduced confidence both in democratic institutions and in the market economy,” he said, noting also that Caribbean democracies suffer from “an unemployment-fuelled assault of violence, drugs and HIV/AIDS.”
Meanwhile, “persistent unemployment in developed economies such as those in Europe creates conditions that xenophobic and other extremist political movements seek to exploit,” he added.
Explaining the benefits of providing jobs to young people, he said youth employment creates consumers, savers and taxpayers while alleviating problems like drug abuse and crime. “Most important, it gives young people a sense of purpose, and a real stake in the success of their communities,” he said.
To generate jobs for youth, he called for direct policies on the issue. “We must re-evaluate our approach, and place job creation right next to economic growth in national and international economic and social policies,” he said.
He also recommended fostering both increased employment opportunities for the young, and their improved employability. “In effect, Governments must seek to create and to increase both the demand for youth labour and the supply of young people with the skills that are needed,” he said.
The Secretary-General called for a broad-based approach to the issue. “No country, and no single actor, can take on this challenge alone. Governments cannot do it without business; and business cannot do it without trade unions and civil society at large. We need genuine coalitions for change, in which all of us unite our efforts behind a common purpose. The United Nations system stands ready to assist in this work,” he said.