Investing in Youth Employment Today will Reap Dividends for Generations to Come

World Bank

Originally posted on LinkedIn on June 29, 2015. 

Most 18-year-olds have no idea where life’s journey will lead, and I was one of them. At that point in my life, though, I was lucky enough to be selected as the first French student to attend the annual St Gallen Symposium as one of the future “Leaders of Tomorrow.” I remember vividly taking the night train from my home outside of Paris to the Swiss campus where my fellow students and I would bring a youth perspective to the conversations engaging that generation of leaders. At that time, Japan was a rising star on the world economic stage and the Cold War was coming to a close. One of the speakers told us that, “The world is about to change,” and I couldn’t have imagined almost 30 years ago how dramatic those changes would be.

That experience changed my life and opened up a new way of thinking of what leadership could be and how young people could share in moving the global agenda forward. Today, I am Managing Director and World Bank Group CFO and believe completely that youth will be leaders in helping us achieve our mission of ending poverty and boosting shared prosperity by 2030.

I will speak later this week at Rencontres Economiques d’Aix-en-Provence, an economics conference devoted to the theme of employment.  We know that global growth and poverty reduction over the next 20 years will be driven by today’s young people. Access to productive employment is the most effective way to capitalize on the growth dividend. Investing in youth employment – especially for the most disadvantaged – will reap huge economic rewards.

Even so, many of today’s young people can’t find jobs.

In 2014, there were 1.1 billion people between the ages of 15 to 24. But nearly 500 million young people around the world are under- or unemployed.

The global economy needs to create 5 million jobs each month during the next decade to meet the expected growth in the labor force. However, nearly one third of youth are not getting the adequate education or training they need to succeed in today’s job market. And a third of those who are employed are earning under their national poverty lines.

What can be done? Addressing barriers to youth employment requires both public and private action. At the country level, investments can be made to provide technical skills to young people. Better information flows can connect youth to jobs that are available. Apprenticeships can also help young people build their experience.

Importantly, we need to document what works and what doesn’t. This evidence then can be shared across regions and adapted locally to help inform future policies and investments.

We at the World Bank Group are partnering with governments, the private sector and civil society in a unique global coalition called the Solutions for Youth Employment (S4YE). The coalition will support 150 million youth by designing and implementing effective employment programs and mobilizing financial and technical resources for research and innovation.

One of our greatest resources on earth are our young people. They have the passion and drive to make this world a better place. Shouldn’t we give them a fighting chance to achieve their dreams and ambitions? Investing in youth employment today, will have an impact for generations to come.