Lost generation?

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Unemployment has risen sharply during  the recession, and young people have been  particularly hard hit. Even in good times,  unemployment among 15-to-24-year-olds  can be two to three times that of adults, but  youth unemployment has increased much  more rapidly during the crisis. In Germany,  which has a successful apprenticeship  programme, young people are now one and  half times more likely to be unemployed  than prime age workers, while in Sweden  their risk is four times greater.

There are now nearly 15 million  unemployed young people in the OECD  area, about four million more than at the  end of 2007. In countries like France and  Italy, about one youth in four in the labour  market is unemployed, while in Spain the  level rises to more than 40%.

There are several reasons for this. Young  people are more likely to be on temporary  contracts and so are often the first to  go if companies cut staff. Less skilled  young people tend to work in sectors like  construction that have been badly hit by  the crisis. People who are unemployed for  long periods in their teens and 20s face  a lifelong risk of joblessness and reduced  earnings. This “scarring” from being out of  the workforce means less work experience  and can lead to a loss of skills. There is now  a very real concern that the recession will  produce a “lost generation” of young people  with slimmer long-term job prospects.

“Rising youth unemployment during the  crisis”, OECD Social, Employment and  Migration papers, No 106, April 2010. 

See www.oecd.org/employment;

see also  “Giving youth a hand” in OECD Observer No  274, October 2009

© OECD Observer No. 279, May 2010

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