A Generation at Risk: The Global Youth Unemployment Crisis

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The world, according to the business leaders at Davos 2012, is “sitting on a social and economic time bomb:” global youth unemployment. Many leaders at the World Economic Forum’s meeting last year iterated that failing to employ the youth today amounts to a “cancer in society,” which not only affects economic growth now but will significantly stifle future growth. The figures have not improved since Davos 2012: as of last year  12.4 percent of people aged 15 to 24 worldwide were unemployed, which has increased to 12.6 percent in 2013. Now, young people are three times more likely to be unemployed than adults.

According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), in a global labor force of 3.3 billion, some 200 million people are unemployed, 75 million of which are between the ages of 15 and 24.  ILO’s Global Employment Trends for Youth 2013 report points out that the weakening of the global recovery in 2012 and 2013 has further aggravated the youth jobs crisis—youth unemployment increased by as much as 24.9 percent in the Developed Economies and European Union between 2008 and 2012. Both developed nations and emerging economies alike are struggling to create pathways to employment for their young citizens. Youth unemployment rates, which have continued to soar since 2008, are particularly high in three regions: Developed Economies and European Union, the Middle East, and North Africa. The lowest regional youth unemployment rates in 2012 were South Asia, with 9.3 percent, and East Asia at 9.5 percent. The highest were 28.3 percent in the Middle East and 23.7 percent in North Africa. In the advanced economies, the statistics are equally worrying.  In the European Union, the rate was at a 10-year high of 22.6 percent in 2012—with Greece at a staggering 54.2 percent and Spain at 52.4 percent—while  16.3 percent of the youth in the United States was unemployed.

Unemployment rates alone do not demonstrate the scale of the issue, given the 290 million young people more broadly classed as NEETs (not in education, employment or training). According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), 14.8 percent  of young Americans were qualified as NEETs in the first quarter of 2011, while the figure was 13.2 percent in the European Union. In the OECD area as a whole, one in six young people were without a job and not in education or training. The proportion of young people neither working nor studying illustrates how well economies manage the transition between school and work, which has become particularly problematic in developed economies.

The skills mismatch in youth labor markets is an underlying cause of this persistent and growing trend. McKinsey, a global management consulting firm, reported that in the nine countries that it studied (America, Brazil, Britain, Germany, India, Mexico, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Turkey) 40 percent of employers were struggling to find candidates with adequate skills for entry-level jobs. In contrast, almost 45 percent of young people said that their current jobs were not related to their studies, and of these more than half viewed their jobs as temporary and said they were planning to leave. Another survey by Accenture found that in the United States, 41 percent of college graduates from the last two years had to take jobs that do not require a degree. The skills mismatch shows that over-education and over-skilling coexist with under-education and under-skilling.  This is particularly the case in most developed economies, where the job market is split between high-paying jobs that most workers are not qualified for and low-paying, low-skill jobs that do not provide a sufficient income.

Many economists think that such a systemic mismatch requires policymakers to reform rigid labor markets and implement education policies that would close the gap between the world of education and world of work. Creating vocational and technical programs and forging stronger relations between future employers and future employees are seen as remedies to ease the school-to-work transition. Germany, where apprenticeships and vocational training have long been the norm, has the second lowest rate (8.2 percent) of youth unemployment in the European Union. Such training programs, backed by a certification system, would allow employees to have skills transferable across companies and industries. However, only less than a quarter of education-providers offer similar practical courses involving hands-on learning in the classroom or training on the job.

It is also unclear if similar training programs would produce similar results in other countries, given that Germany’s export-driven economy is characterized by high-tech manufacturing, which employs many highly-trained manual workers. Thus, determining country-specific needs will be crucial for employing wide-ranging and well-targeted reforms. The ILO suggests that some labor market policies, such as targeting the employment of disadvantaged youth, promoting self-employment to assist potential young entrepreneurs, and implementing international labor standards ensuring that young people receive equal treatment at work, are necessary to revamp youth labor markets across countries.  Without significant reforms, it is estimated that there will be a global shortfall of 85 million high- and middle-skill workers for the labor market by 2020.Unless bold reforms are undertaken, many fear that the economic and social costs of long-term unemployment, discouragement and pervasive low-quality jobs will not only continue to undermine the growth of many economies but will also put a whole generation at risk.

By: Sera Tolgay

Sources: BBC News, Huffington Post, International Labor Organization, The Economist, Time Magazine, CNN, Business Week

Photo Credit: Paris January 15th, 2009 Student Protest courtesy of Flicker user frog and onion

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Event Summary: The Next Generation of Earth System Education

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On Earth Day 2013, Monday, April 22nd, a panel of Geo-science, technology, engineering and mathematics Master Teachers convened at the Wilson Center to discuss several innovative endeavors to engage teachers and students in Earth science studies using state-of-the art technologies and education resources.  The event was co-hosted by the Program on America and the Global Economy (PAGE) and the Global Sustainability and Resilience Program.  The event was moderated by Kent Hughes, Director of PAGE.

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John Moore, Director of Geo-science STEM Education at Palmyra Cove Nature Park and Environmental Discovery Center in New Jersey, former Albert Einstein Distinguished Education Fellow, and Executive Director for the American Council of STEM Teachers opened the panel discussion by pointing out two very important and influential opportunities for reform in STEM education: the PCAST Report to the President on plans for improvements in K-12 STEM education released on September 15, 2010 and the recently released Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) report which outlines the new voluntary, rigorous, and internationally benchmarked standards for K-12 science education.  Moore emphasized the importance of, “developing the teachers’ voice,” providing several examples of projects for leadership and professional development of teachers such as the DataStreme Project, a distance learning course designed by the American Meteorological Society,  and Global Learning and Observation to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE), a worldwide network for sharing resources for primary and secondary earth science education.

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Marcia Barton spoke next about the opportunities and challenges for STEM educators.  She agreed that the NGSS report provided an opportunity to transform science in the United States by integrating the sciences instead of using current standards of teaching the sciences separately.  The NGSS report also elevated earth and space science, including them more in the proposed curriculum.  The challenges for geo-science, according to Barton, were taking advantage of this increased focus and engaging the students in this material, and training the next generation of teachers.  She proposed starting an academy for innovation and sustainability to engage students in geo-science and engineering, especially with the increase in job opportunities for geoscientists.  Based on President Obama’s initiative to prepare 100,000 new STEM teachers in the next decade, Barton suggested making 30,000 of those earth and space system science teachers.

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Vicky Gorman discussed efforts to promote geo-science education in her community with the Citizen Science Education Program (CSEP).  CSEP was designed by middle school students and tailored for their own community.  The program seeks to increase scientific literacy within the community and is part of the Weather Ready Nation network, a NOAA initiative.  Gorman stressed the importance of communication and leadership skills within students to prepare them for the workforce, with development of those skills starting in middle school.  She stated, “Unless students are marketable, all their education goes to waste.”  Gorman emphasized the importance of geo-science education as it encompasses chemistry, physics, and biology and applies to real-life situations and the global economy and where our workforce needs to be.

Peter Dorofy commented on the technology challenges of teaching earth science.  Traditionally, earth science is a non-lab course but with increasing technological advances such as GPS, GIS, remote sensing, and real-time data, that is changing.  He spoke of the challenges at his technical college in New Jersey, such as budget cuts and shifting programs, and how to make earth science relevant to students who have already chosen a career.  Dorofy stated it was key to identify real-life situations in which earth science can be applied and to take advantage of all the technology in the field to excite students.

John Moore recapped the first part of the panel and reiterated that teachers have a unique opportunity to push earth science.   The problem is in implementation.  Moore stated that in many schools the 1996 NGS Standards are barely implemented today, therefore, the responsibility will lie with the next generation of teachers to ensure that these new standards are realized.

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Kevin Simmons and Jin Kang explained new technology in the geoSTEM field: cubesats, microsatellites, which are powerful, interactive tools that can be used by schools to provide data from space.  Cubesats introduce children to systems engineering and allow them to put the engineering method, which Simmons distinguished from the scientific method, into practice.  Kang emphasized the two essential factors of effective education: motivation and hands-on education which are key to encouraging creativity and innovation.

The panel responded to audience questions about the integrity of the geoSTEM programs, differences between the U.S. and Korean education systems, and the new common core standards and standardized testing.

Drafted by Elizabeth White

Click here to view the video recording of this event.

The Challenge of a Changing China

chinaLower than expected growth numbers from China on Monday have raised worries that China’s economy may be losing momentum.  Forecasted to have a growth rate around 8%, China’s actual growth came in at a lesser 7.7% for the January to March quarter, compared with 7.9% in the previous three months. This slower growth is in part due to lagging recoveries in the US and Europe causing China’s exports to decline. However, it is important to note that major, if understated, structural changes within China’s own economy have also contributed to these unexpectedly low growth numbers.

Rapidly rising wages have led to a systemic shift in the way China’s economy currently operates and have caused the country to move away from its traditional reliance on low cost manufacturing. China is looking towards a transition to a more sustainable economic growth model and these numbers might be indicative of the growing pains that China is currently facing. In fact, according to Ms Yao of Societe Generale,”Given Beijing’s goal of restructuring the economy, a relatively moderate economic growth is not a bad thing in the longer term.” While China will likely remain a manufacturing hub thanks to its relatively mature investment environment, superior infrastructure, and skilled workforce, it is the higher-knowledge industry sector and domestic consumption that will be the future drivers of Chinese growth.

Improving wages and job opportunities have created an optimistic and vibrant consumer class that has demanded both a higher standard of living and higher quality goods and services. Metaphorically speaking, Chinese citizens are emerging from the factories and entering the malls. Rather than being a mere base of production, China has become a prime market to sell into as consumption continues to increase. This massive and complex market holds huge commercial potential for those businesses that can successfully adapt and gain a foothold. Meanwhile, China itself can benefit greatly from increased foreign direct investment as its economy continues to mature.

Despite China’s economic dynamism, it is still a place that is plagued with many dilemmas that limit its potential. Some of the most infamous issues revolve around corruption, which is especially rampant at the local level leading to staggering pollution, serious quality control issues, and enormous levels of inequality. In addition, China’s educational system is stunted by its singular focus on testing and needs to be reworked to foster creativity and innovation, skills that are vital in an increasingly connected global marketplace. These concerns may limit China’s global economic potential, especially when major policy efforts are still needed to address these critical domestic problems.

Overall, China is still dealing with the disorder commonly found during major economic transition. Its switch from a primarily manufacturing economy to a consumer economy may take time as growth rates begin to rebalance. In fact, it is likely that  these declining numbers indicate not economic problems in China, but an economic changing-of-the-guard that will result in less dramatic, healthier, and more reliable economic growth.

Posted by: Matthew Goldberg

Sources: The Economist, BBC News, Bloomberg, CME Group

Photo Credit: China Pavilion courtesy of flickr user Wojtek Gurak

Graduation Rates: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

graduationOne of the main goals President Barack Obama laid out during his first term was to return America to its previously held position as the country with the highest number of college graduates per capita by 2020. This American Graduation Initiative (AGI) requires increasing the percentage of college graduates in the US workforce by 50% by the end of the decade. In order for the AGI to be accomplished, the number of college graduates would have to increase by an annual 16% every year from 2010-2020. However, the problem in reaching this goal may be rooted in low graduation rates, rather than low enrollment numbers.

America2020 is a private sector approach to the same problem, focusing specifically on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) graduates. Their plan is to encourage STEM degree completion by committing industry professionals to volunteer their time mentoring and teaching students in these fields. There will be an estimated 10 million STEM job openings by the year 2020, and OECD data reports that US students tend to have a low interest in science. This approach has already seen significant improvements in graduation rates with the schools involved and those students who have participated in the program are far better prepared for college.  Citizen Schools, one of the major forces behind the America2020 initiative, along with representatives from the White House and several big-name companies recently convened here at the Wilson Center to discuss details of its implementation and how they could be involved.

The American Dream 2.0 is an initiative by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that, “offers a comprehensive framework for how the hundreds of billions invested in the financial aid system can increase college access, affordability, and completion”. According to the Foundation’s findings, 46% of students enrolled in higher education institutions fail to graduate within six years. This rate increases to 63% for African Americans and 57% for Hispanics. In addition, total annual borrowing for college has more than doubled in the past ten years, as tuition rises faster than family income or inflation. These statistics are worrying, because those who borrow money for school but end up dropping-out without earning a degree have higher unemployment rates than those who graduate.

Good news comes from high school completion rates, which reached a record high in 2010 at 78.6%. While this is certainly heartening, fewer than half of those in the class of 2012 were ‘college ready’ as determined by the College Board last fall. In order to meet the challenges of President Obama’s AGI, education policymakers need to focus not only on college enrollment rates, but also on access, affordability, completion rates, and high school rigor. Although in the current fiscal climate, large scale investments in education may be harder and harder to implement, the effects of education investment on the productivity and success of our nation’s young people are immeasurably important.

By: Ben Copper

Sources: Huffington Post, PR Newswire, White House records, EducationSector.org, Citizenschools.org

Photo Credit: flickr user: Smithsonian Institution

You are Invited: Nation Building: The Plan for Public Education in Post-Earthquake Haiti

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The Program on America and the Global Economy Presents:

Nation Building: The Plan for Public Education in Post-Earthquake Haiti 

Thursday, Feb. 7th, 2013

3:00 – 4:30 p.m.

Flom Auditorium, 6th Floor, Woodrow Wilson Center

1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.

Washington, DC

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Speakers:

H.E. Vanneur Pierre, Minister of Education, Haiti

Paul G. Vallas, distinguished scholar, Wilson Center, education reform expert and lead education consultant to the

Government of Haiti

Moderator: 

Kent Hughes, Director, Program on America and the Global Economy


Nearly 50% of the Haitian population is under the age of 18. Thus restructuring Haiti’s education system is the Government of Haiti’s top priority, a challenge complicated by the devastating 2010 earthquake. The Haitian Minister of Education, along with U.S. education reform expert Paul G. Vallas, share the details, the challenges, the progress and the need to realize Haiti’s vision for its future through education.


 

Please RSVP acceptances only to page@wilsoncenter.org

Directions to the Wilson Center: www.wilsoncenter.org/directions

Watch the live webcast here

Please bring a photo ID and arrive 15 minutes ahead to allow time for a security checkpoint.

 

Media guests, including TV crews, are welcome and should RSVP directly to elizabeth.white@wilsoncenter.org

*Media bringing heavy electronic equipment – such as video cameras – MUST indicate this in their response, so they may be cleared through our building security and allowed entrance. Failure to indicate your intention to bring video cameras 24 hours before the event may result in being denied access to the Wilson Center building, please err toward responding if you would like to attend.

 

Innovation Is What Drives Us: The Impact of Technology on Employment

driverless_carThe inexorable march of progress continues as Google carries on with its plan to bring driverless cars to a highway near you. This form of transportation—previously found only in the annals of science fiction—could prove a boon to the auto-industry and has many other profound implications for both business and society at large.

Among other things, Google’s self-driving car has reignited the larger debate over the role of technology in our lives, especially in the jobs market—a sector that is quite important to millions of working class Americans worried about employment prospects. This concern lies in the prevalent view that advanced technology is usurping jobs that would have otherwise gone to humans. An Associated Press analysis of employment data from 20 countries found that millions of mid-skill, mid-pay jobs already have disappeared over the past five years. With this data in mind, coupled with slow economic recovery, should the American people be worried? Not as much as you might think. It is helpful to realize that this sort of technological innovation has happened throughout history and, while jobs were indeed replaced, new ones arose that more than compensated for the original loss. For example, the combustion engine decimated makers of horse-drawn carriages, saddles, buggy whips and other occupations that depended on the horse trade. But it also resulted in huge auto plants that employed hundreds of thousands of workers, who were paid enough to help create a prosperous middle class. As Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz states, “What has always been true is that technology has destroyed jobs but also always created jobs.” The invention of the iPhone, for instance, has put more than 290,000 people to work on related iPhone apps since 2007, according to Apple. This suggests that innovative technology continues to create new types of jobs that require higher skills and creativity.

Like an employment phoenix rising from the ashes of a bygone industry, the American worker will undoubtedly be able to take advantage of new opportunities. For its part, the United States must continue to invest in the educational system so its students are able to take on the challenge of these new and exciting industries.

Posted by: Matthew Goldberg

Sources: Washington Post, Forbes, Associated Press, New York Times

Photo Credit: Google self-driving car in Mountain View courtesy of flickr user MarkDoliner

US College Degree Attainment Remains Stagnant as Other Countries Pull Ahead

eduAccording to a December 2012 report by the Center for Public Education, the percentage of young adults in the US who are  college graduates has not significantly changed from the percentage of college graduates aged 55-64. This contrasts with the great gains that have been made in other parts of the world (such as South Korea, Japan, and most of the EU) where the percentage of college graduates is significantly rising each year. For those aged 25-34, the United States  now ranks 14th in the world for the percentage of workers with a college degree. While the United States remains 2nd in the world for 4 year degree attainment, just behind Norway, the main lag is in 2-year degree attainment, where the United States comes in 18th place.

The report shows that students fare better in college if they are well prepared in high school. This is especially true for low-income and low-performing students. According to the Council on Competitiveness, “simply being an American is not an entitlement to a secure, high-wage job” due to competition from emerging markets.  To win the skills race, workers need to attain a higher level of education, and success starts in K-12 programs.

The recent PAGE publication by education reformer, Paul Vallas: “Making a Success of Every School”, points out that it is not underinvestment that is hurting our public schools (out of OECD countries, the United States spends the 2nd most on public education), it is “the inability to invest wisely in the systemic reforms that would remove obstacles impeding the modernization of our educational system to meet new realities.”  Some strategies to improve American K-12 education include: providing greater access to educational technology in classrooms, encouraging partnerships between high schools and local vocational or community colleges, and ensuring the financial predictability that is crucial to long-term planning. The US system must evolve to meet the challenges of the 21st century if its workers are to remain competitive in global markets.

Posted by: Ben Copper

Sources: Center for Public Education, Council on Competitiveness

Photo Credit: Teacher in Classroom courtesy of Flickr user www.audio-luci-store.it