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Youth unemployment is a huge problem in Latin America. Here’s how to solve it

Youth unemployment is one of the biggest challenges facing our global economy: today 73 million young people between the ages of 16 and 24 are unemployed, a 6% increase since 2007.

This issue is especially relevant in Latin America. Unemployed youngsters represent more than 40% of the total number of unemployed in many countries (a higher rate than in European countries) and the 14% youth unemployment rate is more than double the LATAM average rate of 6%. However, another fact leads to an even bigger risk: when young people do find a job, 6 out of 10 jobs are ‘informal’, with no contract, benefits or social security rights. The International Labour Organization states that only 37% of Latin American youngsters are contributing to social security schemes and only 29% are contributing to the pension system.

This situation is demotivating many youngsters who are confronted with the lack of labour market opportunities, and therefore decide not to study or actively search for a job, thus running a high risk of social exclusion.

We now witness a vicious circle in which companies have no job offers fitting youngsters’ needs, while at the same time young talents end up working in precarious conditions or even dropping off the formal labour market. This is an unacceptable situation, both from an ethical and an economic perspective — young generations are the engine of our future.

We face a huge challenge that can only be tackled by innovative policies and collaborative action. First of all, there is the urgent need to tackle the problem that most Latin American companies are facing: they fail to find candidates with the right skills to fill their vacancies.

Creating specific education and training programmes for youngsters, matching their talent with the market demands, is crucial. In other words, the education system based on theory is outdated: a step forward is needed to establish strong links between the world of education and the world of work, so that young people receive the training they need to meet the needs of the labour market.

Secondly, policies that foster work-based training solutions need to be more prominent. Hand in hand with creating opportunities for young people to gain the right technical or practical skills, it is essential that labour market entrants also learn more general skills to begin their job search. Basic skills like how to prepare a job application, write a CV, emphasize their strengths and prepare for a job interview are unknown to many.

Thirdly, beside the policy framework, it is crucial to activate and engage companies to reduce the gap between the backpack brought from school and the needs of employers. Only the active support from companies working on innovative schemes that bring corporations and students closer together will move the needle: apprenticeships, internships, as well as academies within enterprises, education fellowships, mentoring programmes, quality temporary contracts acting as a bridge to permanent employment … and all initiatives that focus on facilitating the transition of youngsters into the labour market. Read the whole article.

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