Unemployment: More Important Than Climate Change, Cybersecurity

January 27, 2014  |  2 comments

By Amy Rosen,
President and CEO,
Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship

This blog is cross-posted from Forbes.com

Structural unemployment – especially among young people – is a more serious problem than our lack of action on global warming.
 
That’s the opinion of the more than 2,000 participants at the World Economic Forum which held its annual meeting in Davos last week.
 
The WEF survey of their members ranked global unemployment as the number three issue on their “trends of 2014” list – ahead climate change inaction and cyber-security.
 
Clearly, they think it’s a big problem.
 
And it is.
 
The numbers are staggering. Half of India’s 1.25 billion residents are under 25 years old.
 
Estimates are that by 2050 there will be more than half a billion young people in Africa. In India and Africa alone that’s near 1.1 billion young people entering the international workforce.
 
Those young workers along with another billion plus in Asia, Europe and South America will be in competition for tomorrow’s jobs with the 69 million Americans currently under the age of 18. And it’s not as though we’re doing a great job finding jobs for young people today.
 
U.S. youth unemployment rates have been well above total unemployment rates for some time. The most recent report on employment was no exception showing 20.2% of young people are without work compared to 6.7% of the American workforce overall.
 
A new study concluded that the having so many idle young people in the United States is costing taxpayers up to $25 billion a year.
 
When the world’s young people arrive at the career starting gate in a few years, that economic pressure on governments and businesses will be exponentially greater – and quite possibly catastrophic in parts of the world with economies less able to absorb the shock.
 
But the economic cost may trifle in comparison to the social pressures of having millions of unemployed young people. According to the WEF report, “Young people need to be productively employed or we face the deterioration of our social fabric.” Countries and economies which can’t or don’t resolve the problem may face civil and political unrest.
 
Think of the available jobs predicted to be in place in the next 20 years as a bus with limited seats. But the world has a football stadium full of people expecting rides – the International Labour Organization predicted the world needs 600 million new jobs in the next 15 years to meet the coming demand.
 
Some people looking for seats in the employment bus will walk and others won’t travel at all. And we should do everything we can to help these young people find their own rides to where they want to go.
 
Teaching, training and inspiring young people to be entrepreneurs can be a significant part of the solution.
 
Every job a young person makes on her own is one less person looking for job. And every successful business which hires even one more person releases the coming employment pressure just a bit more.

And surely among the billions of young people there are some who will innovate or start big businesses with ideas and products we can’t imagine today – harnessing creativity and capacity in a deep and broad way.
 
We need to do more than hope that happens. Especially when we can make sure it happens. We can make more entrepreneurs now by teaching, training and empowering them.
 
Compared to what the world must agree on and address to face other challenges such as climate change (number five on the WEF list) or managing mega-cities (number 9), sparking entrepreneurship to stem tomorrow’s unemployment deluge seems cheap and easy.
 
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