Youth unemployment skyrockets: OECD

Youth unemployment has been steadily rising and is expected to remain in the high double digits until the end of 2011, the OECD says.

Youth unemployment has been steadily rising and is expected to remain in the high double digits until the end of 2011, the OECD says.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development issued a report Wednesday that predicts unemployment among youths — which the group describes as non-students between the ages of 15 and 25 — is on track to remain close to 20 per cent across Europe well into 2011.

"The global economic crisis has hit youth very hard," OECD employment division head Stefano Scarpetta said. "Governments should intervene quickly to provide adequate support to them."

Youth rate nearly triple

Across OECD member nations, the unemployment rate among youths typically hovers around roughly double whatever the normal rate for those over 25 is. But that ratio has skyrocketed to 2.8 times during the recent recession and shows no signs of slowing.

In Iceland and Sweden the youth unemployment rate is more than four times the national rate.

The most recent Canadian data reinforces the OECD's findings. The national unemployment rate sat at 8.2 per cent in March, Statistics Canada said recently. Among youths, the rate jumped to 15.6 per cent.

OECD singled out the prevalence of temporary contracts. Young people are more likely to be on temporary contracts and are often the first to go if companies cut staff.

Also, less-skilled young people tend to work in sectors such as construction that have been badly hit by the crisis, the report said.

People who spend large amounts of time out of work in their teens and twenties face a lifelong risk of lower earnings, the OECD warns, and are also threatened by future joblessness and a loss of skills.

Cameron Hinojosa talks with his sister Renee Rodriguez before handing in his resume at a retail store in California in 2009. The recession made the 2009 summer job market one of the bleakest ones on record. ((Gary Kazanjian/Associated Press))

"There is now a very real concern that the recession will produce a 'lost generation' of young people with slimmer, long-term, job prospects," the report says.

To avoid this, the report lobbies governments to do much more to help young people.

Broader stimulus measures to tackle unemployment have helped, but targeted action to assist low-skilled young workers is needed. The OECD estimates that in some countries, 30 to 40 per cent of young workers are "at risk" because of low skills and poor educations.

The group singled out apprenticeship programs as being an excellent way of providing young workers with skills they can use later on, while providing local economies with a cheap source of labour while they rebound.

"The first line of defence is to provide income support to facilitate their job search," Scarpetta said.