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"Let us put the spotlight back on youth unemployment and poverty"
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"Let us put the spotlight back on youth unemployment and poverty"

Zuki MqolombaYoung people should be in the driving-seat of their own personal development, enabled by government and other stakeholders to be active agents of change, according to Zuki Mqolomba, 26, a Commonwealth Correspondent from South Africa.

More young people are poor or underemployed than ever before. Youths make up 30 percent of the total working-age population. Millions of youths work but live in households that earn less than the equivalent of US$1 per day.

Millions of young people are trapped in temporary, involuntary part-time or casual work offering few benefits and limited prospects for advancement. Most young people are underrepresented in the informal economy, and account for over 45 per cent of unemployment.

The reality is, had youth development remained a key policy focus in the 1990s in conjunction with calls for sustained economic growth, we would not be dealing with the effects of a youth crisis. Though it is widely acknowledged that economic growth is necessary, it is not a sufficient condition for accelerated employment growth, let alone for youth. We need to see concerted efforts that ensure that the patterns of economic growth foster substantial and accelerated employment generation for society’s most vulnerable groups.

In line with the commitments of the Copenhagen Social Summit of 1995 (WSSD), the aspirations of the United Nations Millennium Summit in 2000 (MDGs) and the 2004 AU Declaration on Employment and Poverty Alleviation in Africa, we need to put “youth unemployment and poverty” at the forefront of government policy. Governments must place young people and their development in the broader context of national development.

We must lobby behind the ILO’s campaign and urge governments to give new impetus to the promotion of youth employment and poverty alleviation. In this instance, youth should be in the driving-seat of their own personal development, enabled by government and other stakeholders, to be active agents of change. We must organise our efforts in a spirit that encourages shared responsibilities, cooperation and co-ordination amongst key institutional stakeholders.

Let us not lose sight of the lived realities that:

“For individuals, poverty (and unemployment) is a nightmare. It is a vicious circle of poor health, reduced working capacity, low productivity and shortened life expectancy…. For families, poverty and unemployment is a trap. It leads to inadequate schooling, low skills, insecure income, early parenthood, ill health and an early death… For societies, poverty and unemployment is a curse. It hinders growth, fuels instability, and keeps poor countries from advancing on the path to sustainable development. For all of us – and for all these reasons – the cost of poverty and unemployment in shattering human lives is far too high”. (ILO, 2003)

As this generation of youth we have the responsibility to apply ourselves in addressing both the underlying and structural causes and their distressing consequences. We need to pull together and reduce uncertainty and insecurity in the life of all youths.

Let us now move towards a decade of youth development. Let us put the spotlight back on youth unemployment and poverty eradication. Let is start by getting to the heart of the problem and begin by fixing it. Together we can do more.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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