Around the world, young people ages 15 to 24 are having a much harder time finding work than the same age group did in 2007. What is even more worrying, this group of young people that is disconnected from education and the labor markets is increasing in number. By 2018 the global youth unemployment rate is projected to rise to 12.8 percent with growing regional disparities. But unemployment does not paint the total picture of the challenge for youth, as many who have left education do not even appear in labor market statistics.

The risks posed by having an entire generation ‘scarred’ by negative long-term effects has prompted many governments to take strong actions, such as funding more youth labor programs. But government programs cannot solve the entire issue alone and well-coordinated efforts must come from all key stake-holders, including employers, trade unions, NGO’s and naturally from youth themselves.

Looking a bit deeper, there are several key factors that are contributing to the rise of youth unemployment:

Scarring of a generation

For low-skilled youth, especially those who have left school without attaining a diploma or qualifications, failure to find a first job or to keep it can have negative long-term consequence on future career possibilities. This situation is referred to by some industry experts as “scarring“.

Job quality

Developing regions face major challenges regarding the quality of available work for young people. Flexibility@Work 2014 confirms that in developing economies where labor market institutions, including social protection, are weak, large number of young people continue to face an availability of only lower quality jobs and irregularity.

Skills Mismatch

Over-education and over-skilling coexist with under-education and under-skilling, as shown in Into the Gap. Increasingly, skills obsolescence brought about by long-term unemployment attributes to the mismatch as well.


Two main groups exist: group 1. Left-behind Youth who simply did not make it into the labor market, and group 2. Poorly-integrated new entrants who often have the qualifications but do not actually possess the skills necessary to make any advancement in their careers. Recognizing skills and an inclusive labor market are key to helping these two groups, as well as bettering the situation overall. As mentioned before, there needs to be involvement beyond simple government-paid programs.

Improving youth labor numbers requires an in-depth understanding of employment and labor market issues that are country-specific. Private employment services can, and should, play an important role in reducing youth unemployment and advancing young people throughout their career path. Effective cooperation between the private employment industry and various public partners including public employment services is an important factor in this.

Time is of the essence, and a global movement is required to break the cycle that keeps millions of youth out of education and out of work.

Download the full white paper for the greater picture of youth unemployment.

For those wanting to glean insights into how governments, unions, business and of course youth itself, need to cooperate – and what measures they should focus on to fight youth unemployment - Flexibility@work 2014 is a must-read.

For more information on Youth initiatives by Randstad, see the Dutch campaign that recently took place, Youth on the Move.