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Youth unemployment to stay at 'crisis peak' for years: ILO

A man leaves an unemployment bureau in Athens earlier this month. More than one in five Greeks and one in two youths are out of a job, according to data from statistics service ELSTAT.


The number of young people without work in the world has grown by four million since 2007. What's more troubling? Millions more "disconnected youth" have given up the job search altogether.

The global youth jobless rate this year remains stuck at "crisis peak" levels and won't likely come down until at least 2016, the International Labour Organization predicts in a grim outlook on youth employment published this week.

It's a key challenge for policy makers, especially those in countries with stumbling economies and heightened government austerity. All told, almost 75 million young people are expected to be jobless this year.

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Of chief concern are young people who are neither in employment, nor in education or training – dubbed NEET in many countries. This segment has been growing in recent years, particularly in the developed world, reflecting a deepening detachment from the labour market. It's a troubling sign, given this risks both future employability and social exclusion.

"The youth unemployment crisis can be beaten but only if job creation for young people becomes a key priority in policy making and private sector investment picks up significantly," said José Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs, executive director of the ILO employment sector.

That means offering tax and other incentives to businesses that hire young people, greater efforts to reduce the skills mismatch in youth, more mentoring and access to capital and better social protection for the young, he said.

To reach NEETs in particular, the report cites a U.S. joint initiative with business leaders and communities to give summer jobs to hundreds of thousands of disconnected and low-income youths to help them gain work experience, skills and contacts.

The ILO sees global youth unemployment rate at 12.7 per cent this year, unchanged from the peak of the crisis in 2009 and up a notch from last year. When discouraged youth are taken into account, the rate was more like 13.6 per cent last year.

Pressure on jobless rates will only grow as those people who stayed at, or went back to school eventually enter the labour market, it cautioned.

Canada is not immune. The country's unemployment rate for young people is 13.9 per cent and the 15-to-24 age group has seen little employment gains in the past several years.

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Broken down by province, the highest youth jobless rate is in Newfoundland, at 20.2 per cent as of April (according to Statistics Canada's CANSIM data).

Nova Scotia's jobless rate for young people is 19.6 per cent – the highest in a decade. Ontario's rate is 16.4 per cent. By contrast, Alberta has the lowest youth jobless rate in the country, at 8.8 per cent – a contrast that will no doubt continue to lure young people into the province.

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