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The challenges of youth employment: modernizing VET and reducing overqualification

marzo 31, 2021

The work of young people will be harmed by the health emergency of the coronavirus, the automation of the labor market and the shortage of positions commensurate with their skills, according to the International Labor Organization

Young people from all over the world face a uncertain future in the labor market Due to the job automation, the limited focus of a good part of the Vocational Training programs and the scarcity of jobs commensurate with their competencies. This is revealed in the latest report of the International Labor Organization (ILO), Global Youth Employment Trends 2020: Technology and the Future of Jobs.

The study, which was released recently, emphasizes that 15-24 year olds are three times more likely to lose their jobs to automation from work than 25-year-olds or older, primarily because of their limited work experience.

In fact, the youth unemployment rate worldwide stands at 13.6% and in Spain it is 33%, the highest in the European Union, according to Eurostat data. This means that one in three young people under 25 years of age of working age cannot find a job.

The coronavirus, another factor that affects youth employment

During the presentation of the report, The ILO has indicated that COVID-19 increases the pressure on youth employment because most of them participate in several of the most affected economic sectors, such as services and tourism.

“In case consumption falls for months due to the coronavirus we will see severe consequences in terms of job opportunities“, has recognized the director of the Department of Employment Policies of the ILO, Sangheon Lee.

Faced with this situation and to generate more job opportunities for young people, the ILO considers that Governments, schools and companies face the following challenges:

Modernize VET to avoid the risk of unemployment due to automation

Young people with VET studies are at higher risk of being left without their job due to automation, given that “the competencies for specific occupations imparted by Vocational Training tend to become obsolete more quickly than the more general abilities oriented to the resolution of problems that are imparted in the university institutions”, highlights the report.

Therefore, the ILO urges governments to review and modernize VET programs so that students can better adapt to the changing demands of the digital economy and thus avoid being forced to have a precarious job or become “ninis”, that is, young people who neither study nor work.

Reduce overqualification through flexible training programs

The ILO notes that Enrollment of the youth population in higher education has increased, which in many countries translates into an overqualified workforce.

The report ensures that in recent years the number of workforce participants with a college degree has not been matched by a similar increase in highly skilled jobs. For this reason, some of the young people with university studies are willing to accept jobs that are below their skills, mostly with a view to gaining work experience.

“Encouraging young women and men to pursue university studies will not solve the problem of youth unemployment. It is important to ensure that university study programs are of high quality“says the report.

Although university graduates are less likely to lose a job due to automation, their training does not provide complete immunity from losing a job, so the ILO proposes that they study or receive additional training in order to find a job in a different field.

It is also necessary establish inclusive policy frameworks and flexible training systems “Based on dialogue between governments, workers and employers,” Sukti Dasgupta, Director of the Employment Policy and Labor Market Service of the Employment Policy Department of the ILO, said during the presentation of the publication.

Promote policies for decent youth employment

The young population who has a job also lives a precarious situation, since it is more exposed to atypical, informal and less safe forms of work. “The fact that three out of four young workers worldwide were employed in the informal economy in 2016 highlights the scale of the problem,” the report notes.

In the richest European countries, which tend to have a high percentage of salaried workers, less secure forms of employment among young people have increased because of the call platform economy, which usually hires freelancers on demand, by the hour or by project, according to the ILO.

It is also necessary to ensure that the youth population enjoy social protection and have rights at work. Furthermore, it is important “to encourage them to join workers ‘and employers’ organizations, so that they can be represented in the tripartite dialogue.” In short, the ILO considers it essential promote policies that create decent jobs for young women and men.

Reduce the increase of “NEETs” with flexible educational and labor policies

The study notes that rate of young “ninis” has increased worldwide: in 2015 this was 21.7% and in 2019 it was 22.4%. In Spain, specifically, the “NEET” rate in 2019 was 14.9%, according to data from Education and Traininig Monitor 2019, of the European Commission.

Of the 1,300 million in the world, 267 million are “ninis” and 273 million are expected to be registered in 2021. Furthermore, two-thirds of these, namely 181 million, are women.

“It is clear that their full potential is not being realized, although many may be contributing to the economy through unpaid work, which is particularly the case for young women,” the ILO says in the report.

For his part, Sangheon Lee, Director of the ILO Employment Policy Department, stated in the presentation of the report that the disengagement of young people from education and the labor market can hurt your long-term future “and ultimately undermine the socio-economic development of your country“.

The challenge will be to establish adequate policies and measures for each country in order to reduce the “NEET” rate. “The challenge will be to harmonize the flexible approach necessary to offer these young people appropriate policies and measures to change the situation. A one-size-fits-all solution will not do any good,” he added.

In the following video, some key facts about youth employment from the ILO report …

Video: International Labor Organization

Did you know…?

  • The world youth population has increased from 1 billion to 1,300, but the number of young people between 15 and 24 years old who participate in the workforce has decreased between 1999 and 2019, going from 568 million to 497 million, respectively, has warned the ILO.
  • Globally, young women are twice as likely as young men to be “NEETs.”