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14 July - The United Nations labour agency is calling for urgent action to tackle the crisis of youth unemployment, which has increased significantly in the wake of the global economic slowdown and has repercussions for the economy as well as social cohesion.

Young people – those aged 15 to 24 – account for over 22 per cent of the increase in the number of unemployed since the beginning of 2007 and is now nearly three times the average level among adults aged 25 and over, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO).

“In nearly all countries, the increase in youth unemployment has outpaced that of adults,” the agency says in a new report entitled “Youth employment in crisis.”

Since the start of the crisis, the youth unemployment rate has risen over 7 percentage points – the sharpest two year increase on record – and now exceeds 21 per cent on average in the countries for which data are available, say Steven Tobin, ILO economist, and Raymond Torres, Director of the International Institute for Labour Studies, who are co-authors of the report.

The report points out that young people are entering the labour market at a time of limited job creation. Employed young people are also often engaged in precarious jobs, and are therefore more vulnerable to job losses than their adult counterparts.

Young people who lack general or vocational education are especially vulnerable to the crisis, it notes, adding that as job prospects remain weak, many young people might see little benefit of furthering education or training which would have negative socio-economic consequences.

In addition, the lack of decent work opportunities in developing countries had led to significant emigration by many skilled young people.

The authors stress that it is crucial to promote more and better jobs for youth and urges immediate action, noting that impact of long-term unemployment on youth can be “devastating and long-lasting.”

The longer young persons remain out of touch with the labour market, the more difficult – and costly – it is to return to productive employment, they state.

“There are also a number of important social implications related to exclusion, including susceptibility to anti-social behaviour, including juvenile delinquency, and social unrest,” they add.

According to the report, it will not be possible to improve youth employment prospects significantly in the absence of a global economic and labour market recovery. Therefore, it is crucial to carry out the Global Jobs Pact, adopted by ILO members in June 2009 in an effort to guide national and international policies to stimulate economic recovery, create jobs and protect working people and their families.