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Jobless youths could drag on global economy´s recovery

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But with persistent recession across Europe and high levels of youth unemployment and long-term joblessness, signs that growth is picking up may offer little cheer.

"The rise of long-term unemployment, with more of the unemployed moving off unemployment insurance onto less generous social benefits, is worsening poverty and inequality," the OECD said on Thursday, adding the issue was especially bad in Europe.

The consequent drain on demand could hinder recoveries before they reach what some economists call "escape velocity" and policymakers are starting to fret that the longer high joblessness persists, the harder solving the problem becomes.

More than 40 percent of U.S. unemployed have been out of work for more than six months, almost double the previous post-World War Two record.

Even news on Tuesday of falling registered jobless in employment blackspot Spain may reflect more darkness than light, with economists at Citi saying the decline in March resulted from a tightening of the criteria for accessing benefits.

There is particular anxiety among policymakers – and increasingly global investors – that leaving hordes of youths without work even after a turn in the economic cycle could threaten social and political stability in many economies.

HOMING IN

A growing amount of investment research in recent weeks has homed in on the problem, making links with the huge anti-establishment vote in Italy´s election in February and even the conditions that triggered the ´Arab Spring´ uprisings in 2011.

"The rising trend of youth unemployment around the world threatens not just current economic growth but also political stability and the potential demographic dividend," according to a report published by Credit Suisse late last month.

That "demographic dividend" – which CS claims explained 44 percent of the rise in per capita output in developing Asia in the 30 years to 2000 – tends to kick in as the number of young workers swells relative to their older and younger dependents.

But it hinges on high levels of labour force participation, meaning potential gains may be evaporating as growing numbers of those in the 15-24 age bracket are left idle.

With International Labour Organisation data showing worldwide youth unemployment at 12.7 percent – or 74.6 million people – in 2012, up about one percentage point from pre-crisis levels, the global problem is pretty clear.

Rather ominously, the region most riven by social and political unrest over the past two years – the Middle East and North Africa – had youth unemployment rates of more than twice the world average in 2012.

Developed economies and the European Union came next, with an average young jobless rate of 18 percent.

Recent official statistics show more than 50 percent of young Spaniards and Greeks are out of work, and more than 30 percent in Italy, the highest among the Group of Seven nations. Bailed-out Ireland and Portugal also have youth unemployment running at more than 30 percent.

Source: Reuters

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