Skills and education lead to quality jobs. We know this anecdotally and from experience, but the OECD has been monitoring youth unemployment in its member countries to demonstrate with data that in order to create jobs, investment in job training is necessary.

When the global unemployment crisis hit its peak, 40 percent of employers said they could not find workers with the right skills. And 25 percent of workers—even Europe’s richest economies—say they want more demanding jobs.

With such high demand for better skills, where’s the training supply?

Young Greeks face tear gas at a protest in Athens, December 2008. Photo: <a href="">How Will I Ever (Flickr)</a>
Young Greeks face tear gas at a protest in Athens, December 2008. Photo: How Will I Ever (Flickr)

The swelling ranks of unemployed youth threaten to create a lost generation that endangers the global economic system, a new report warns.

The world’s 75 million unemployed youth are dangerously concentrated, increasingly connected and more numerous than ever, the International Labor Organization found last month. To protect international security, the ILO suggested, the world’s governments must prioritize creating jobs for their young citizens. Seeing a meaningful future in which they can provide for themselves and their families is absolutely necessary for youth to feel they have a stake in security and stability.

That 75 million figure was so staggering that the ILO has now made youth employment one of its top priorities. For countries, non-profit organizations and companies, if facing this problem is not already a priority, the vast number of unemployed youth will soon make it one.

With 50 percent of the global population under 27, issues facing youth are everyone’s issues. Of the 200 million unemployed around the world, 40 percent are youth. The OECD and ILO have also published regional numbers, defining “youth” as those between their mid-teens and mid-twenties. The youth bulge in the Middle East, where youth unemployment has reached almost 25 percent, has been highly publicized since the advent of the Arab Spring. Seemingly huge, it’s just one microcosm of a much larger, complex problem. In Europe, certain countries are doing okay, like Norway and Germany with just over 7 percent youth unemployment. Yet others, most notably Spain and Greece, have reached youth unemployment levels of over 50 percent. In the United States, 35 percent of youth between ages 20 and 24 are unemployed. In South Asia and Latin America, the unemployment rate sits around 15 percent. East Asia’s youth unemployment rates are the lowest around the world at just above 9 percent, but most young people with jobs work in poverty.

It’s a formula for trouble.

“When people living on the brink lose their livelihoods, they are more likely to turn to arms—either because they are angry at perceived injustice, or because they see few other options and feel they have little to lose,” The Council on Foreign Relations’ Terra Lawson-Remer wrote last month.

Examples of the violence and hostility that arise from frustrated youth are front-page stories, from the Arab Spring and the riots in Greece to Central American youth turning to drug cartels for work. Security and stability are compromised in all these locations as youth reach the point of desperation.

What youth need now isn’t just jobs, but quality jobs. For an overqualified employee, sitting on an assembly line for pennies doesn’t cut it. While the number of youth unemployed is staggering, the number of youth in working poverty is also quite staggering. “There are by far more young people around the world that are stuck in circumstances of working poverty than are without work or looking for work,” the ILO claims. While the underemployed have a source of income, it’s not enough to sustain themselves or others. Those who are so frustrated that they stop looking for work skew the numbers further because they aren’t counted in official surveys.

The real number of jobs needed for youth? Far more than 75 million.

Finding good jobs is easier said than done. Governments, non-profit organizations and companies need to create job-friendly environments, which starts with quality education, mentorship and training targeted at growth sectors. In many areas job vacancies exist, but the skills needed are not taught in schools.

“Many private schools have career fairs or a career counselor, but most public schools do not, so students lack this guidance,” said Diala, a 19-year-old Lebanese international affairs major and Global Citizen Corps participant. “Lebanon suffers from a misallocation between the college majors students choose and the jobs available.”

In Africa, mid-level managers are in demand, but education opportunities have to catch up so applicants possess necessary skills. According to the African Economic Outlook report, the continent is experiencing jobless growth. “In rural areas especially, better education in agriculture and new technologies would help address mismatches between the skills demanded by firms and those learned by young people,” the report noted.

“We have huge percent of people educated with a college degree but who can’t find a job. If they do, it often pays less than it should for the skills required,” said Khaled, a 21-year-old Global Citizen Corps participant and Tunisian engineering student.

Starting new, homegrown businesses in many of these unstable regions would create jobs and plant the roots needed for outside investment. International investors often shy away from betting on countries that frequently appear on headline news for instability, but when entrepreneurial and business management training is available, along with mentorship, local businesses can tell a different narrative. The Middle Easthas a technology sector with exploding potential, and companies like Google are starting to take note.

Another complex challenge to building a business-friendly ecosystem is government regulation and taxation. In many countries, business start-up regulations and loan policies make the process difficult, if not impossible, especially for young people. Governments must simplify and streamline policies for starting business, and let small business owners keep profits. Reforming tax policies so they are transparent and fair would go far in advancing private sector investment and innovation.

“It’s universal, all young people want to succeed and they want to move upwards,” Noreen, an unemployed Asian youth, told the BBC. “Any society or economy where there is no room to move upwards, young people get frustrated.”

Simple solutions may not exist, but all signs point toward changing course to attain any hope of peace, development and security. Slowing the global swell of unemployed youth would create a “found” generation: young people with passion, energy, new ideas and a stake in their future. We have no choice but to get it right.

RELATEDChoosing opportunity over violence, Mercy Corps’ youth employment project in Kenya, called “Yes Youth Can!”
RELATEDTurning the Arab Spring opinions into data—and change, The Christian Science Monitor via Global Envision


Originally Published on Global Envision:

Youth around the world want to trade in their piggy banks for the real thing. Photo: <a href=””>rosscrawford1 (Flickr)</a>
Youth around the world want to trade in their piggy banks for the real thing. Photo: rosscrawford1 (Flickr)

The draw of the piggy bank stretches to children of all income levels; the need for security and the promise of their dreams makes kids save.

A new study by Save the Children and the MasterCard Foundation examined the saving patterns of low-income youth between the ages of 12 and 18 in Kenya, Colombia, Ghana, and Nepal. The fascinating result: no matter their income, children save.

Contrary to popular belief, Save the Children found that youth in these countries are already “making” money. Most receive some sort of allowance from their parents for food and other daily expenses. Larger sums are often received for special occasions and some earned from small jobs and chores. While most is spent quickly on short-term needs like food and transportation to school, almost all reported having savings.

What are they saving for? Most say education, followed by emergencies. Where are they saving? In their piggy banks or other informal locations in their houses or businesses. This leads to a huge opportunity for banks, because the main complaint from kids is that their private stashes are insecure. Formal bank accounts solve this and, more importantly, teach kids financial skills they’ll need throughout their lives.

But there’s a lack of banking options for youth in these countries. Save the Children’s study interviewed kids to find out what was holding them back from opening an account and what kinds of features would help them save more and access it when they need it. Results show that as in the U.S., most banking opportunities that exist for youth require parents as co-signers. Many youth fear that if their parents have control, they will use the savings. Some banks have developed a system that keeps parents involved, such as by setting withdrawal limits, but allows youth significant control. Another factor keeping kids from using banks is that it’s hard for them to withdraw funds when they need them. The co-signer must be with them to make a withdrawal, and getting to the bank when they money is needed can be a challenge. Youth must obtain a national I.D. to open an account, adding a layer of complexity that doesn’t exist with a piggy bank.

On the other hand, most youth respondents didn’t mind small fees, as long as those charges were explained transparently upfront. They also reported an interest in trading some access to a percentage of their funds in return for lower fees. Given the ability to access a portion of their savings immediately for emergency use, most kids surveyed were excited about the opportunity to save small amounts over a longer period than is feasible with informal savings methods.

The Save the Children YouthSave program is working to create and replicate successful banking options that solve these apprehensions. The program also aims to educate kids about formal financial tools, like loans, credit scores and savings versus checking accounts. This complementary financial literacy messaging and real-life practice helps kids make constructive use of their accounts. Though kids around the world will continue saving in piggy banks, youth-friendly banking options will create a savvier, more financially secure next generation.


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Savvy Kashmir youth start businesses to stem the tide of unemployment in the region. Photo: Tara Noronha/Mercy Corps
Savvy Kashmir youth start businesses to stem the tide of unemployment in the region. Photo: Tara Noronha/Mercy Corps

A need in a community and an enthusiastic entrepreneur make a perfect match, but for many the financial hurdles of starting a business dissolves this relationship.

“Risky, untrustworthy, and unreliable” is how financial backers in the Kashmir region describe most young entrepreneurs, according to research conducted by Mercy Corps, the first stage of its “Start-Up Kashmir Youth Entrepreneur” (SKYE) development project.

Stereotypes about young businesspeople make it hard for them to find enough startup cash to create a viable business plan and launch. Finding a backer to help launch a business in the first place is the No. 1 challenge globally, according to SKYE’s comparative research of entrepreneurs in Europe. Furthermore, the research found 68 percent of young entrepreneurs in the Kashmir region have no clue where to look for funds. But for those who articulate how they can fill a void in the economy, the funds exist—and many banks are beginning to provide tailored products for youth clients.

Complex government regulations present further challenges. Young businesspeople find processes slow, corrupt and inefficient, leaving them disillusioned and giving up, according to SKYE’s 2011 study. But local government is taking steps to streamline the registration process, and providing support to young entrepreneurs through its“Entrepreneur Development Institute”. The Institute provides education and training to build an individual’s ability to qualify for loans, as well as mentors and ongoing support to borrowers. J&K Bank has partnered with the local government and Mercy Corps to develop a “Youth Start-Up Loan Scheme” at a competitive interest rate and worth up to 35 percent of the project’s costs.

To help youth receive a first-time loan despite a lack of credit history, the Small Industries Development Bank of India is providing a collateral guarantee, specifically for businesses in the agriculture or services sector (like IT and tourism). Through J&K Bank, the Jammu and Kashmir government has also started a seed capital fund for youth who are pursuing businesses in sectors deemed priorities for the region.

Arshid Mehraj, a native of Kashmir, used a loan from J&K Bank to create a primary school. Three hundred and fifty students and 47 employees later, his school is doing well. Mehraj overcame the financial challenge with the help of resources in the region, and he is not the only one. The financial landscape is changing in Kashmir, and new programs are paving the way for youth to find the cash they need to finance their new businesses. “Entrepreneurship is about chasing your dreams, no matter what it takes and it’s a way to return something back to the society,” said Mehraj. “No doubt it is full of challenges, but remember, persistence wins.”

Download the research, “Youth in Kashmir: Challenges and Opportunities,” here.

Mercy Corps’ SKYE program has launched a regional “Start-up Kashmir” network for young entrepreneurs which will ultimately foster the growth of 200 youth enterprises across the Kashmir Valley. Read more about the program on the Start-up Kashmir website.


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The joys of soccer balls stretch across the globe <a href=””> chronowizard (Flickr)</a>The joys of soccer balls stretch across the globe chronowizard (Flickr)

It is easy to get excited about a soccer ball. Add to it the ability to create electricity and light, all for $60, and it seems to be a developing-world dream.

Development is not always that simple. Sometimes it may be, but it is important to take the time to evaluate it. New York University Professor Bill Easterly made an important request in his blog last month to the creators of sOccket, the hot invention by Uncharted Play that has drawn praise from Best Buy and Bill Clinton:

“Please give us a little more evidence of how well the sOccket works for those poor consumers and a bit less of rich people testifying how excited they are about this story.”

It’s an important skepticism for us all to keep in mind when it comes to aid projects. It is easy to get distracted hype, but the end result impacts people’s lives, so it is important to ask all questions. For example, How much do people actually use the sOccket? What else could be done with that $60? Do kids who get the sOccket ball stop interacting in their local markets because they can get free stuff instead? Maybe they do, maybe not, but the questions need to be asked in order to determine its value in the developing world.

RELATED: The soccket: A soccer ball that generates electricity

RELATED: The soccket kicks it up a notch


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Children enjoying a book  Photo: <a href=””>Stitch (Flickr)</a>
Children enjoying a book Photo: Stitch (Flickr)

Raising students’ reading ability takes only a month when competition is involved.

In the Philippines Sa Aklat Sisikat, a non governmental organization, has students participate in its month-long read-a-thon programs against their classmates. The best part of the program comes after, though, as kids continue to read and their test scores improve.

To young Americans, it might be reminiscent of “Book It!”, a Pizza Hut program whose goals are to get kids (a) reading and (b) hooked on pizza.

For schools, these programs may help students reach their reading potential in the short term, even though there’s evidence that Book It, at least, doesn’t affect long-term reading habits. The school gets reading education support; the organization, publicity and business; and the kids, education they need to succeed. And maybe a slice of pizza.

Originally Published on Global Envision:

The mobile revolution has taken over the world: 75 percent of the population now has access to phones. The applications are seemingly endless, from health care to agriculture. Check out the World Bank’s new infographic to see mobile phones’ progress.

(Via Build it, Kenny.)

Originally Posted on Global Envision: