Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Youth Population Bomb

I picked up this piece from Bloomberg Business Week.  Much of it focuses on problems in the Middle East, but it does not ignore the problem of a disaffected jobless youth.  I had a posting on China’s problem with unemployed graduates: Link.
I got out of school in the mid-1980s and it looked very much for a time like “failure-to-start” was going to be my lot.  Fortunately, the economy started picking up, and I had some friends who looked after me, so I made it into the non-minimum wage workforce after about 6 months.
The Youth Unemployment Bomb  :From Cairo to London to Brooklyn, too many young people are jobless and disaffected. Inside the global effort to put the next generation to work
Peter Coy, Bloomberg Business Week, 2 February 2011.
In each of these nations, an economy that can't generate enough jobs to absorb its young people has created a lost generation of the disaffected, unemployed, or underemployed—including growing numbers of recent college graduates for whom the post-crash economy has little to offer. Tunisia's Jasmine Revolution was not the first time these alienated men and women have made themselves heard. Last year, British students outraged by proposed tuition increases—at a moment when a college education is no guarantee of prosperity—attacked the Conservative Party's headquarters in London and pummeled a limousine carrying Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla Bowles. Scuffles with police have repeatedly broken out at student demonstrations across Continental Europe. And last March in Oakland, Calif., students protesting tuition hikes walked onto Interstate 880, shutting it down for an hour in both directions.
More common is the quiet desperation of a generation in "waithood," suspended short of fully employed adulthood. At 26, Sandy Brown of Brooklyn, N.Y., is a college graduate and a mother of two who hasn't worked in seven months. "I used to be a manager at a Duane Reade [drugstore] in Manhattan, but they laid me off. I've looked for work everywhere and I can't find nothing," she says. "It's like I got my diploma for nothing."
While the details differ from one nation to the next, the common element is failure—not just of young people to find a place in society, but of society itself to harness the energy, intelligence, and enthusiasm of the next generation. Here's what makes it extra-worrisome: The world is aging. In many countries the young are being crushed by a gerontocracy of older workers who appear determined to cling to the better jobs as long as possible and then, when they do retire, demand impossibly rich private and public pensions that the younger generation will be forced to shoulder.
In short, the fissure between young and old is deepening. "The older generations have eaten the future of the younger ones," former Italian Prime Minister Giuliano Amato told Corriere della Sera. In Britain, Employment Minister Chris Grayling has called chronic unemployment a "ticking time bomb." Jeffrey A. Joerres, chief executive officer of Manpower, a temporary-services firm with offices in 82 countries and territories, adds, "Youth unemployment will clearly be the epidemic of this next decade unless we get on it right away. You can't throw in the towel on this."


Mayberry said...

And yet our "education" Ponzi scheme keeps herding people through an impossibly over priced system in order to turn out unemployable drones. Drones who now have enormous debt for their "education", and no way to repay it. My advice to young people: skip college. Start a business. Preferably an all cash business. And learn all the skills you possibly can by doing things for yourself. It's a "brave new world"...

russell1200 said...

Very true. The worst example is the glut of lawyers.

But there are often (depends where you live) reasonable low cost alternatives. They are of course not heavily promoted within the establishment. What is really helpful is if they start working on career contacts when they are still young. Mentor types are usually very open to young earnest teenagers.

Of course my fist grader wants to be a soldier and a Lego designer.