The jobless young
The harm today’s youth unemployment is doing will be felt for decades, both by those affected and by society at large
Sep 10th 2011 | from the print edition
MARIA GIL ULLDEMOLINS is a smart, confident young woman. She has one degree from Britain and is about to conclude another in her native Spain. And she feels that she has no future.
Ms Ulldemolins belongs to a generation of young Spaniards who feel that the implicit contract they accepted with their country—work hard, and you can have a better life than your parents—has been broken. Before the financial crisis Spanish unemployment, a perennial problem, was pushed down by credit-fuelled growth and a prolonged construction boom: in 2007 it was just 8%. Today it is 21.2%, and among the young a staggering 46.2%. “I trained for a world that doesn’t exist,” says Ms Ulldemolins.
Spain’s figures are particularly horrendous. But youth unemployment is rising perniciously across much of the developed world. It can seem like something of a side show; the young often have parents to fall back on; they can stay in education longer; they are not on the scrapheap for life. They have no families to support nor dire need of the medical insurance older workers may lose when they lose their jobs. But there is a wealth of evidence to suggest that youth unemployment does lasting damage.
In the past five years youth unemployment has risen in most countries in the OECD, a rich-country club (see chart 1). One in five under-25s in the European Union labour force is unemployed, with the figures particularly dire in the south. In America just over 18% of under-25s are jobless; young blacks, who make up 15% of the cohort, suffer a rate of 31%, rising to 44% among those without a high-school diploma (the figure for whites is 24%). Other countries, such as Switzerland, the Netherlands and Mexico, have youth unemployment rates below 10%: but they are rising.
The costs mount up
In tough times young people are often the first to lose out. They are relatively inexperienced and low-skilled, and in many countries they are easier to fire than their elders. This all goes to make them obvious targets for employers seeking savings, though their low pay can redress things a little. In much of the OECD youth-unemployment rates are about twice those for the population as a whole. Britain, Italy, Norway and New Zealand all exceed ratios of three to one; in Sweden the unemployment rate among 15- to 24-year-olds is 4.1 times higher than that of workers aged between 25 and 54.
Not only is the number of underemployed 15- to 24-year-olds in the OECD higher than at any time since the organisation began collecting data in 1976. The number of young people in the rich world who have given up looking for work is at a record high too. Poor growth, widespread austerity programmes and the winding up of job-creating stimulus measures threaten further unemployment overall. The young jobless often get a particular bounce in recoveries: first out, they are often also first back in. But the lack of a sharp upturn means such partial recompense has not been forthcoming this time round. In America the jobs recovery since 2007 has been nearly twice as slow as in the recession of the early 1980s, the next-worst in recent decades—and from a worse starting-point. In some countries a rigging of the labour market in favour of incumbents and against the young makes what new jobs there are inaccessible.
Youth unemployment has direct costs in much the same way all unemployment does: increased benefit payments; lost income-tax revenues; wasted capacity. In Britain a report by the London School of Economics (LSE), the Royal Bank of Scotland and the Prince’s Trust puts the cost of the country’s 744,000 unemployed youngsters at £155m ($247m) a week in benefits and lost productivity.
Some indirect costs of unemployment, though, seem to be amplified when the jobless are young. One is emigration: ambitious young people facing bleak prospects at home often seek opportunities elsewhere more readily than older people with dependent families. In Portugal, where the youth unemployment rate stands at 27%, some 40% of 18- to 30-year-olds say they would consider emigrating for employment reasons. In some countries, such as Italy, a constant brain-drain is one more depressing symptom of a stagnant economy. In Ireland, where discouragement among young workers has shot up since 2005 (see chart 2), migration doubled over the same period, with most of the departed between 20 and 35. This return of a problem the “Celtic tiger” once thought it had left behind is treated as a national tragedy. (未完待續)
1. perennial [pəˋrɛnɪəl] 終年的, 常年的
3. prolonged [prəˋlɔŋd] 延長的; 拖延的
4. staggering [ˋstægərɪŋ] 搖晃欲倒的
5. horrendous [hɔˋrɛndəs] 可怕的
6. perniciously [pɚˋnɪʃəslɪ] 有害地; 有毒地; 致命地
7. fall back on後退跌在(某物)
8. scrapheap [ˋskræp͵hip] 廢物堆; 棄置廢物之處
9. insurance [ɪnˋʃʊrəns] 保險; 保險契約[U][(+against)]
10. dire [daɪr] 可怕的; 悲慘的
11. cohort [ˋkohɔrt] 一隊人; 一群人
12. diploma [dɪˋplomə] 畢業文憑, 學位證書
13. redress [rɪˋdrɛs] 糾正, 矯正; 革除
14. exceed [ɪkˋsid] 超過; 勝過[(+in)]
15. ratio [ˋreʃo] 比; 比率; 【數】比例
16. mount up登上
18. partial [ˋpɑrʃəl] 部分的, 局部的; 不完全的[Z]
19. recompense [ˋrɛkəm͵pɛns] 酬報, 酬謝; 回報, 懲罰
20. rigging [ˋrɪgɪŋ] (船的)索具[the S]
21. incumbent [ɪnˋkʌmbənt] 負有職責的, 義不容辭的[F][(+on/upon)]
22. productivity [͵prodʌkˋtɪvətɪ] 生產力; 生產率
23. amplified [ˋæmplə͵faɪ] 放大(聲音等); 增強
24. emigration [͵ɛməˋgreʃən] 移居; 移民出境[U][C]
25. bleak [blik] 荒涼的; 無遮蔽的, 遭受風吹雨打的
26. symptom [ˋsɪmptəm] 症狀, 徵候[(+of)]
27. stagnant [ˋstægnənt] 不流動的, 停滯的