Unemployment: A Challenge for Today’s Youth

Working in Office CubicleUnemployment is a major challenge facing Latin American and Caribbean youth. Recently, a study conducted by the International Labor Organization (ILO) revealed that, in Latin-America and the Caribbean, youth unemployment reached a rate of 14.4%, more than two percentage points over the global average. However, the problem goes beyond that. According to the same research, about 67% of Latin-American young people who do have a job are working in conditions of underemployment, that is, they are working without social security and being poorly paid.[1]

Certainly, the best and easiest answer to explain this situation is to point out the shortage of jobs; nevertheless, the idea is to try to understand why young people are the most affected. As it is well known, one of the biggest problems in Latin-America is social inequality. As a function of this inequality, there are two kinds of young people that are looking for jobs and do not succeed in finding one. On the one hand, there are those people who are university graduates but do not find job opportunities; and, on the other hand, there are unprepared young people, perhaps, from poor families that face the same problem. Regarding the first case, the main reason behind their unemployment is that most employers ask for labor experience, and very few young people have experience in the time they have just completed their studies. For instance, a study of Manpower, an employment agency, discovered that about 89% of the young people do not meet the required experience to be competitive in the labor market.[2] Moreover, with regard to the youth of the lower classes, the main problem is that they do not have the tools to participate or compete in the labor market. According to Donpeople, an organizational consultant, 79% of this sector of the population lack information and training to take advantage of the job opportunities.[3]

Millions of young people are unoccupied in the region. This has consequences not just in terms of productivity; the situation increases the chances that young people become embroiled in criminal activities. In Latin America, there is an old proverb that says, “an idle mind is an evil’s office.” Perhaps, this phrase could be a little bit exaggerated, but the fact is that most of the people in jail today are people that did not have opportunities or conditions for professional development. The need to act against this problem is imperative.

In the face of this situation, the recommended solution is to create more jobs, but it is not a simple task. I suggest two proposals for the solution. In the short term, we must foster more technical training in order to facilitate and accelerate the entrance of young people to the labor market and, also, to open spaces for people to get some labor experience at the time they are studying. In the long term, my suggestion is a bit more daring: according to ILO, the current youth generation has been the most prepared generation in the region’s history, so the most sensible step is to promote the creation of jobs related to the fields of education or specialization of most young people, that is, to exploit the comparative advantage of the population. For instance, if most of young people are studying social sciences, it is convenient to encourage the services sector dynamization. As it can be seen, the State’s role is essential to improve the situation; nonetheless, the government should ensure a fluid communication between itself and the different sectors of civil society if a real solution is to be accomplished.

By: Jean Paul Madrigal Rodríguez, a WYA member from Costa Rica 


[1]Organización Internacional del Trabajo, August 12th 2013, on-line consulted in http://www.oit.org.mx/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=214:oit-desempleo-juvenil-de-144-en-america-latina-y-el-caribe-plantea-un-desafio-en-materia-de-politicas-laborales-&catid=59:noticias&Itemid=58

[2] S.A., “El desempleo es también porque los jóvenes carecen de suficiente preparación”, Ultima Hora, Asunción, Paraguay, August 12th 2013, Sec. Opnion, on-line consulted in http://www.ultimahora.com/el-desempleo-es-tambien-porque-los-jovenes-carecen-suficiente-preparacion-n436987.html

[3]Donpeople consultora organizacional, August 12th 2013, on-line consulted in http://www.donpeople.com/jo/index2.php?option=com_content&do_pdf=1&id=26