A critical element of the current global jobs crisis is the struggle faced by young people entering and remaining in the labour market. To address this challenge, the ILO organized a global Youth Employment Forum, 23–25 May 2012 in Geneva, Switzerland (www.ilo.org/yef).
Over 100 young trade unionists, entrepreneurs, NGO members and others took part in the three-day Forum at the ILO headquarters to share their experiences and views on the employment crisis that has left 75 million youth jobless worldwide.
The forum provided a platform for young people to share their experience and views on the current employment situation as well as to discuss successful initiatives which create more and better jobs for young people.
The discussion focused on the youth employment crisis, youth transition to decent work and partnership for more and better jobs for young people. A market place was set up where innovative youth employment initiatives and good practices, including Commonwealth interventions for youth employment, were shared and discussed.
As regards promoting meaningful engagement of young people in governance and policy processes, the Commonwealth Youth Programme (CYP) of the Youth Affairs Division (YAD) always walks the talk. Believing in the inherent potential of young people, YAD nominated Rahul Mirchandani, President of the recently formed Commonwealth Asia Alliance of Young Entrepreneurs (CAAYE) to represent the Commonwealth Secretariat at the Youth Employment Forum and speak in one of the plenary sessions.
At the plenary session on “The Youth Employment Crisis: Let us share the knowledge and experience” Rahul highlighted the importance of jobs-led growth and the need for youth entrepreneurship as an enabler in this crucial process. “Young people with no jobs are a social time bomb. It is essential that countries tackle the issue of providing gainful opportunities to young people. Believing in the employability and bankability of young people is a crucial starting point in making this happens”, he argued.
The fact that the CYP was represented by a young entrepreneur was evidence of a clear intent to get the voice of youth out at appropriate forums.
The immense need for an upgrade of skills to make young people employable and job-ready was a problem in almost all the 100 countries represented at the Conference. In the Asian region, where economic growth is still much higher than in Western countries, the irony of “jobs without people and people without jobs” existing simultaneously was a unique problem that needed to be tackled.
When talking of solutions, Dr Mirchandani went on to say that it was essential that young people don’t give up at their first attempt to seek employment. It all starts with learning how to ‘brand oneself’ right from school, and teachers must provide this essential skill to all students. Every individual in the job market is selling their services and time, and if employers understand the individual’s unique strengths, getting a foot in the door for an interview becomes easier. The right attitude to work, clear direction and maturity are also very important.
Further, with the economic slowdown, there are too many people chasing too few jobs and this situation is expected to persist. Looking at entrepreneurship opportunities, micro-entrepreneurship was proposed as an essential intervention. Young people must also look at themselves as job creators. Alliances like the CAAYE have been formed as mentorship and advocacy groups to create a better entrepreneurship ecosystem, developing an entrepreneurship curriculum, providing information on access to finance, influencing regulation and taxation policies through their parent industry associations, etc.
The need for incubators and idea labs at universities was also stressed. However, many entrepreneurs fail to access finance because they have not looked hard enough at available sources of funding and government schemes already on offer, and also because they have not had the conviction or courage to make a good enough pitch to lenders.
The Youth Affairs Division’s CYP Regional Centers have enabled Commonwealth ministerial meetings and consultative committees to influence banking institutions to provide young people with collateral-free funding for bankable business ideas in India. These have been exceptional showcases for the power of youth-led job creation to address the youth employment crisis.