Global perspective Human stories

Youth employment, job rights keys to economic recovery, says new UN labour chief

ILO Director-General Guy Ryder.
UN Photo/Ryan Brown
ILO Director-General Guy Ryder.

Youth employment, job rights keys to economic recovery, says new UN labour chief

With youth accounting for more than one-third of the world’s 200 million unemployed, Guy Ryder, the new Director-General of the United Nations International Labour Organization (ILO), has called for programmes that specifically target getting young people into jobs.

“All of the evidence shows that if a young person is out of work for a year or more at the beginning of their career, that affects them throughout their working life,” Mr. Ryder said as he took the helm at the Geneva-based ILO today following his election in May.

“There’s no way back for most of them. So we have to act urgently, we have to act now and we have to target young people.”

Mr. Ryder said the ILO intended make youth employment “one of the priorities” in the coming months, adding that programmes offering youth work experience or training held promise and should be explored as one way of helping the 75 million unemployed young people find work.

“Sounds expensive? It’s affordable,” said Mr. Ryder, a former General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation. “It’s an investment, not a cost.”

On the wider jobs crisis, Mr. Ryder highlighted that ILO can play a crucial role in helping global policymakers seek inclusive solutions as part of a social dialogue.

“Where people come together and find solutions which may require some pain, some sacrifice on their behalf, they’re much more willing to do so if they’ve been a party to reaching an agreement than simply on the receiving end of somebody else’s decision,” he said.

Mr. Ryder also emphasized the international nature of the crisis, and argued that only an international response could adequately tackle it.

“This crisis needs to be treated on the scale that it exists, the global level,” he said. “We have to construct global solutions. There will at the end be no sustainable national solutions to a world crisis.”

But while Mr. Ryder said job creation was a clear goal, the question of job quality was also a critical issue – not only for individuals but also for the global economy.

“Rights at work are essential to recovery,” he said. “I think we should not be led into the belief that creating more jobs means jettisoning international labour standards.”

Mr. Ryder pointed to statistics showing that half of Europe’s poor households are dependent on one wage earner in the family. That underlined the importance of creating more quality jobs, he argued.

“Standards provide the rules of the game in the world economy and they are a very important part of getting out of this crisis,” he said.