Europe's youth hunt for jobs, but most often have to settle with temporary ones, like these girls handing out leaflets

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OECD: Urgent measures needed to fight youth unemployment

Youth unemployment is rising dramatically and the trend is set to continue in 2011 according to the OECD. At the G20 meeting of labour ministers Stefano Scarpetta encouraged governments to act immediately. The first thing to do, he said, is to make sure youths have something to live off while they're unemployed.

Jul 01, 2010 | Text: Berit Kvam Photo: Björn Lindahl

The average level of youth unemployment among 15 to 24 year olds across the OECD region has traditionally been double that of over-25s. In 2008 it rose to nearly three times the level for over-25s, but with great national variations. 

Youth unemployment in Iceland and Sweden was four times that of other age groups. In seven countries - among them Denmark, Finland, Italy and Norway - youth unemployment was four times higher than the general unemployment. It is therefore dramatic when youth unemployment is expected to rise further in 2010 and 2011.

"Youth unemployment is a serious problem. Governments must act fast," said Stefano Scarpetta at the recent G20 meeting. He is one of the authors of OECD's special report on youth unemployment where governments are urged to prevent negative long-term effects. Many young people can expect to go through longer periods of unemployment, and there is a great danger of people falling outside of the system and for them to suffer other damaging effects. 

Italy's pressing problem

Unemployment in Italy could rise above 10 percent in 2010 warned the OECD's Employment Outlook for 2009. The labour market for young people was poor even before the crisis hit and it has become worse. There are 20 percent fewer Italian youths in employment than in the OECD area as a whole. Latest monthly figures suggest Italy's youth unemployment is getting close to 30 percent, and it is expected to rise. 

Italy has a reputation of being geared towards the older generations, a place where youths don't get a look-in. The reasons behind this are found in the education system, in working life and in politics says Norway's ambassador to Italy, Einar Bull. 

"There is no age limit in politics and organisational life for instance. People don't reach senior positions until pretty late in life, and young people can't get access to such positions at all. The education system is changing, but has yet to take shape. The labour market is characterised by many temporary jobs."

"Temporary jobs are the first to go in a crisis, and because these jobs are most often held by young people, they are the ones who are hardest hit by the crisis," said the OECD's Stefano Scarpetta.

Italy also has the highest number of youths who are neither in education nor in work. The transition from education to work also takes longer in Italy compared to most other OECD countries. The road can be windy and lead to a circular path between unemployment, temporary jobs and unemployment again. 

Youths are defined as people between 15 and 24. But the report also shows Italy to inhabit a particular place when it comes to the transition from education to employment. 

"Italy is in the unique position where it is harder to get a job if you have finished higher education than if you have only got a college education. There are more with jobs among those with a secondary education than among those with a college education. There are also fewer people who take further education, fewer who finish their higher education and you won't get paid more if you have a degree," Stefano Scarpetta told the Nordic Labour Journal. 

"Young educated people expect a steady job and might therefore not accept temporary jobs. That can result in a longer period between education and finding work," said Mr Scarpetta. 

"Temporary jobs can become a trap for young workers because they don't lead to full-time employment. Yet in some cases they can lead to a swifter career."

According to Mr Scarpetta it is not very usual to work while studying. This could lead to poorer links to work places at the end of an education. 

Employment Outlook for 2009 warns Italy against rising poverty. 36 percent of Italian households are defined as poor. More than eight percent of poor households rely on a single earner, but the pay is often too poor to live off. 

Stefano Scarpetta

Stefano Scarpettais head of the OECD's Division for Employment Analysis and Policy. He has been in charge of several OECD country reports, including Denmark and Sweden.
(Photo: OECD)

OECD Report on Youth Unemployment

Full name of reprt

"Rising youth unemployment during the crises: How to prevent negative long-term consequences on a generation?"