High Youth Unemployment Undercuts Global Stability
Mar 29th, 2012 | By David | Category: Employment, Financial, Top Headline | Print This Article
Young people around the world are increasingly jobless, ruining the world’s chances of restoring stability. Nowhere is this more true than in Africa and the Middle East, where “youth bubbles” mean half the population is under twenty-five. Yet even in older and most developed areas, jobless teens and twenty-somethings represent an under-appreciated threat to our future. Without experience working, an understanding of the relationship between time and money, or productive activities to fill their time, the young unemployed are an army in search of a war.
No Work Experience Now = Fewer Chances Later
Less than 35 percent of 16-to-19 year olds in America are working right now, compared to nearly 55 percent just 10 years ago, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This number matters because of the basic catch-22 of working – everybody wants workers with experience.
Getting my first job as a 16 year old in a fast food restaurant may not have seemed like opening the door to the world of work at the time, but it really did. Without that first job, it would have been much harder to get my second job, and I needed the second job to get my third job. This job chain continues unbroken throughout most working careers, but without that first job, it never gets started, leaving teens and twenty-somethings unemployed and frustrated even if they have college degrees.
The situation is the same in other labor markets. In Europe, one in five workers under 25 is jobless. In the Middle East and North Africa, where two-thirds of the population is under 18, youth unemployment rates are over 30 percent and rising rapidly. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) notes that youth unemployment is at its highest point worldwide since the group started collecting data in 1976. Each one of these would-be workers is missing the first step on the ladder out of a life of frustration, poverty, and dependence on handouts, and every year they sit out of the job market lowers their chances of successful careers later.
Poor Understanding of Time-Money Relationships
The young jobless are also missing a chance to develop a strong understanding of the time-money relationship. This may seem like a small thing, but it can have a dramatic impact on thinking and behavior.
Think of your first job. One of the critical lessons was that if you wanted to buy something – say a tank of gas or an album – you had to work for a certain number of hours to get it. You started looking at purchases in terms of how much time and effort it would take you to get them. A night out with friends might mean one weekend shift, while gas for the car might be three afternoons of hard labor. Suddenly, nothing was free. Everything had to be earned, and when you did the hard math, some things weren’t really worth having – not if you had to pay for them!
Now imagine you’ve never had a job. There are things that you want, or things that you think you should have, but you don’t have a first-hand appreciation of the costs or choices involved in getting those things. You don’t understand why some things are possible and others can’t happen. You deserve to have XYZ … why can’t you have it now?
Young people who don’t understand the choices and hard hours of work behind products and services represent a problem. They have unmet demands and endless frustration. Even the best of them may resort to drastic actions – protesting, vandalism, stealing – if they try repeatedly to find work only to get turned down. Multiply them by the world, and there’s a powder keg waiting to be lit.
Hours of Empty Time to Be Filled
African and Middle Eastern nations know this powder keg better than anyone. The Arab Spring revolution in Tunisia was started by a group of hittistes – the slang term for people who lean on walls all day because they have no work. It was taken up by Egypt’s shaba atileen, the unemployed youth, moved to Libya, and continues to grow.
Democratic and human rights issues are a part of it, but frustrated young people with a lot of empty time play a big part as well. How better to fill your time than with a worthy cause? If you don’t have a job perhaps you can join the Occupy movement, protest in the streets of Greece, Spain, or Portugal, form secret societies in China, or overthrow the government in Iran. Let’s be honest – if you’re at work, you’re not marching, protesting, rioting, or rebelling.
The governments and big businesses of the world claim to want peace and stability. Yet their policies have created a world where young people can’t find work. They can’t buy houses and start families that would anchor them to a quiet life– they can’t even afford to leave their parents’ house. TV and the media showcase lavish lifestyles most will never afford, and the resentment builds against “the man” and “the system” that’s shutting them out. Small wonder that unrest is on the rise worldwide – until the youth of the world feel they have a real, prosperous future ahead of them, governments and big business need to watch out.
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