Youth Unemployment Surges World-Wide

By Justin Lahart

The ranks of the young unemployed have swelled.

The March employment report showed that American workers aged 16-24 had an unemployment rate of 18.8%, nearly double the 9.7% unemployment rate for the population at large. Even though these young workers represent only about an eighth of the work force, they account for a quarter of America’s unemployed.

But rising youth unemployment is not just an American problem, points out  a report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Across the 30 OECD countries, there are nearly 15 million unemployed workers aged 15-24 — four million more than at the end of 2007. In France and Italy, one in four young workers are unemployed; in Spain, 40% are jobless.

The currently high levels of youth unemployment could have negative long-term consequences, the report’s authors say.

“For disadvantaged youth lacking basic education, failure to find a first job or keep it for long can have negative long-term consequences on their career prospects that some experts refer to as ‘scarring’.,” they write. “Beyond the negative effects on future wages and employability, long spells of unemployment while young often create permanent scars through the harmful effects on a number of other outcomes, including happiness, job satisfaction and health, many years later.”

One solution, they say, would be to expand apprenticeship programs, which allow young workers to acquire skills and work experience. It seems to be working in Germany, where the ratio of youth unemployment to adult unemployment is 1.5 to 1, compared to 2.8 to 1 across the OECD area.

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