The Weight of Learning New Skills
15 July 2020 marks the sixth year in a row since this date became a special occasion dedicated to achieving better socio-economic environments for today’s youth – World Youth Skills Day. The observance serves as a way of noting the risks of unemployment, underemployment, and other possible threats to youth’s wellbeing. The day is observed by the United Nations (UN) to emphasize the skills gap keeping millions of young people out of work as well as to advocate better and more training, learning, and education opportunities for young people.
Among the key reasons the world needs to observe World Youth Skills Day is the fact that young people have to move continuously to adapt to new (different) circumstances. According to Generation Unlimited, as many as 85 % of the jobs that will exist in 2030 have not yet been “invented”. It is hard just to imagine that in ten years, the world will develop new jobs in response to changes in society and the workplace environment. Yet, this is the reality for young people, who will probably face a situation in which the skills required for finding a job will constantly change or be upgraded.
Such a situation makes job-matching among youth a major factor in their success, and not solely theirs but today’s world generally.
United for a Resilient Youth
Undoubtedly, the current pandemic has disrupted all people in various ways. However, not everyone suffers the same consequences from this global health emergency.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic was our everyday reality, young people aged 15-24 were three times more likely than adults to be unemployed. Currently, however, more than 1 in 6 young people are out of work force due to this crisis. We should remind ourselves that as young adults are called upon to facilitate the recovery, they will also have to own the necessary skills and the resilience to adapt to future scenarios.
“Skills for a Resilient Youth” is the core of this year’s theme for World Youth Skills Day. Numerous virtual events centered around this theme will take place all around the world.
OECD Youth and COVID-19: Response, Recovery and Resilience looks at the impact of the crisis on young people (aged 15-24) and across different age cohorts. The points below are among the key messages of this policy brief:
- Young people express concerns about the toll on mental health, employment, disposable income, and education.
- Low-paid and temporary jobs in sectors most severely affected by the crisis (e.g. restaurants, hotels, and the gig industry) are often held by young people.
- The closure of schools and universities has affected more than 5 billion children and youth worldwide and has significantly changed how youth and children have lived and learned during the pandemic
- a large majority of young people also express concerns about public debt levels.
These are just some of the facts that concern each of us and have a bearing on building an inclusive and integrated approach to public policies that include young adults and properly address their needs. Acknowledging generational differences and divides is the first step toward sharing a healthy environment and not abandoning the most vulnerable groups.
Ensuring an Inclusive and Equitable Quality Education
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its targets have been among my crucial sources for previous pieces as well. Setting common principles and committing all United Nations Member States – developed and developing – to peace and prosperity for people and the planet, this agenda is central to these imperatives.
Goal 4.4 calls for a substantial increase in the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills. It ensures inclusive and equitable quality education and promotes lifelong learning opportunities for all, and takes a central role in building sustainable, inclusive, and resilient societies where youth is highly skilled and prepared for the transition to the working world.
Moreover, a target under this goal is that by 2030, all girls and boys should complete free, equitable, and quality primary and secondary education, leading to relevant, effective learning outcomes and life-opportunities.
How close are we to achieving this?
In May 2020, 2.815 million young people were unemployed in the European Union (EU), of whom 2.267 million were in the euro area. In May 2020, the youth unemployment rate was 15.7 % in the EU and 16.0 % in the euro area, up from 15.4 % and 15.7 % respectively in the previous month.
According to EUROSTAT, compared with April 2020, youth unemployment increased by 64 000 in the EU and by 42 000 in the euro area. Furthermore, in May 2020, a third month marked by COVID-19 containment measures in most Member States, the euro area seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate was 7.4 %, up from 7.3 % in April 2020.
The EU unemployment rate was 6.7 % in May 2020, up from 6.6 % in April 2020.
The unemployment rate is a key indicator for youth’s prospects. A job can be life-changing, both in social and economic dimensions. In addition to financial crisis, an increase in unemployment rates can easily result in a loss of social milieu, a feeling of belonging, and can lead to emotional and mental stresses.
A proper inclusive education, training, and employment possibilities are crucial for any young person aiming to be part of the positive changes we all want to see in the world. As we are used to hearing the saying “Youth is the future”, maybe it is just about time that we reformulate it to “Youth is the present”, and we start to act now to give hope to the rising generation.
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Photo: Shutterstock / Photomontages: Martina Advaney
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