Friday, 16 August 2013

Youth Unemployment and the OECD's Action Plan

This blog, by Wikichild Co-ordinator Melinda Deleuze, is part of the Wikiprogress Series on the European Network on Measuring Progress and Child Well-being. Today wraps up the spotlight on the European Network with this post on youth unemployment in Europe and the OECD Action Plan for Youth, which proposes how to tackle the issue.
It’s far too often that we hear the word “youth” immediately followed by “unemployment”. Hardship of the global economic crises are not spread equally among all individuals and households. According to the OECD’s Employment Outlook 2013, unemployment rates will remain high for the next 18 months across the board, but youth are hit the hardest (see the table below). While not all youth in Europe face difficulties when searching for a meaningful and practical job, there is without question a core group in each country that face either unemployment, inadequate jobs or social exclusion. The most disadvantaged youth are those with low skills or from migrant backgrounds.

Youth participation within the labor market is not only about their material benefits, but also about entering into adulthood, leaving home, building relationships and improving their overall well-being. Society also benefits, thanks to the boost in economic growth and greater social cohesion. The international community recognizes the advantages of higher youth employment rates and has create numerous initiatives to help policymakers tackle this issue (e.g. the ILO resolution on “The youth employment crisis: a call for action”; the G20 commitments on youth employment; the EU Council’s agreement on the Youth Guarantee).

Analyzing education, skills and youth-related employment policies, the OECD is among the organizations assessing the situation in order to find a solution. The OECD’s Secretary-General Angel Gurría has called for more youth-oriented policies, because “they advance the cause of building a stronger, fairer and cleaner post-crisis world.” In May 2013, the OECD endorsed “The OECD Action Plan for Youth: giving youth a better start in the labour market”, and is now working with countries to implement the plan in their national context.

The Action Plan identifies the urgency in finding short-term solutions to immediately tackle the current unemployment problem, but acknowledges that deeper structural changes will have to be dealt for the situation to improve in the long-term.

The Plan’s first objective is to confront current high levels of youth unemployment by:
  • Creating jobs, along with providing income support, employment services or conditional cash-transfer programs
  • Expanding apprenticeship and internship programs, which might include financial incentives for employers
  • Maintaining a reasonably low minimum wage (perhaps a separate, lower minimum wage for teens), not to discourage employers from hiring low-skilled workers
  • Strengthening employers’ incentives by lowering social security contribution or providing wage subsidies

The Plan’s second objective is to produce relevant skills and remove barriers by:

Strengthening the education system in order to prepare the young for work 
  • Effective investment in education and training to obtain relevant skills
  • Quality information about the necessary education and skills for certain careers 
  • Tackle education failure at the system and school level 
  • Provide second-chance opportunities for those who dropped out 
  • Reinforce the role and effectiveness of vocational education and training, promoting both workplace and classroom learning

Assisting with the transition from school to work 
  • Better link education to work world to help employers find people with the skills they need 
  • Help the educated youth find a job without crowding out lower-skilled youth 
  • Expand unemployment benefits to include school leavers, who are hard to contact and engage 
  • Create re-employment programs, perhaps making participation in programs compulsory after a certain period of job searching (e.g. 6 months)

Reshaping labor market policy to facilitate employment access and tackle social exclusion 
  • Encourage trial periods rather than unstable, fixed contracts 
  • Provide training, remedial education and adult mentoring to the youth with multiple disadvantages 
  • Expand access to unemployment and social assistance systems

The number of short-term options provided are few; however, there are still actions for governments to take if they want to incite immediate improvements. While there are many changes that could be made to produce long-term results, making decisions on which actions to implement may prove to be difficult. Fortunately, the OECD is prepared to help implement these action steps. Several experts across of the OECD are engaged and have offered to assist developing national and local action plans, tailoring national skills strategies, advising on specific youth policies, organizing workships on good practise and caring you comprehensive country reviews. The Organisation also provides a space where countries can discuss what works and what does not, and an update of the progress will be reported to the Ministerial Council Meeting 2014.

Melinda Deleuze

See Also:
The OECD Youth Portal 


  1. The Main Action Plan identifies the urgency in finding short-term solutions to immediately tackle the current unemployment problem, but acknowledges that deeper structural changes will have to be dealt for the situation to improve in the in long-term process.

  2. There are recurring topics on my screen or in my discussions and one of them is youth unemployment. It will be a huge problem in the next 5 years when the youngsters will be entering the real world. Every young adult will face a very challenging environment in the next couple of years and if they will be unable to cut it then their resumes will have too much blank fields to allow them to fill meaningful or high value added jobs. If you look at the countries with the highest unemployment rates then it becomes really frightening: there are some nations where we are witnessing a whole generation losing hope. Of course some of them live on their families` accumulated wealth so it`s not an immediate problem but every day work against them and they will never have the chance to create the same standard of living that they parents did.
    “The most disadvantaged youth are those with low skills or from migrant backgrounds.”
    Not to mention how this will cement the inequality and reduce the social mobility in the European society.

  3. Let's aim for the implementation of this action plan.