While today’s youth are the best educated generation in history, they face a number of obstacles in an increasingly globalized world – foremost among them finding decent work – which affect their transition to adulthood, according to a new United Nations report released today.
The “World Youth Report 2007 – Young People’s Transition to Adulthood: Progress and Challenges” draws attention to the challenges faced by youth in seven geographical or economic groupings of countries – Asia, Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East and North Africa, small island developing States, economies in transition and the developed market economies.
The report, which comes more than 10 years after the adoption of the World Programme of Action for Youth, emphasizes that much progress has been made by governments, and especially by young people themselves, to promote the well-being of youth.
“All regions have made impressive achievements in raising school enrolment and more and more girls are going to school,” stated Johan Scholvink, Director of the Division of Social Policy and Development at the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA).
Launching the report at UN Headquarters, he said “the report argues that the 1.2 billion young people in the world today are determined to engage in the social, political and economic fabric of society and have much to contribute to the global debate on major development and policy issues.”
This is evident in their efforts to constantly improve their education, upgrade their skills and find employment through their use of information and communication technology and their participation in volunteer activities, he added.
However, the report notes that there are also major constraints to youth development that are prevalent in all regions – the primary one being the difficulty in finding decent employment in the formal sector.
“This is often related to the fact that the education they have received is of low quality and does not prepare them specifically for the needs of a global job market,” Mr. Scholvink stated. “The educational gains that girls have made, in particular, have not translated into increased employment opportunities.”
As a result, the report states that many young people with high levels of education are forced to seek work in the informal economy, often at the expense of benefits or job security.
“It is clear that while globalization has offered many opportunities around the world, young people continue to face obstacles in accessing its benefits,” noted Mr. Scholvink.
The focal point for youth in the DESA agreed that what is happening to youth in terms of unemployment relates to globalization, to the contraction of labour markets and to difficulty in the “school-to-work” transition across the world, in both developed and developing countries.
“There seems to be some mismatch between the skills that young people gain in school and the skills that the labour market is demanding,” said Patience Stephens. In addition, the skills needed in today’s globalized job market are changing constantly.
The report calls on countries to address the obstacles that continue to limit youth participation in the development of their societies, and provide them with an environment in which they can access not only quality education but also decent work opportunities.