Joblessness among Asian youth rising: ILO

August 12, 2004

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BANGKOK, Aug 11: Southeast Asia has experienced the world's greatest surge in youth unemployment over the past decade with developing nations in the region set for even worse times ahead, according to an International Labour Organisation (ILO) warning.

The number of unemployed people aged 15 to 24 in Southeast Asia doubled to 10 million, or 16 per cent, in the decade to 2003, a far greater jump than any other region, says an ILO report published on Wednesday.

Across the globe, 88 million young people are unemployed, including 38 million in Asia, it said. Seventeen million are in South Asia, representing a youth unemployment rate of 13 per cent and a 21.8 per cent rise from a decade ago.

More than 11 million are in East Asia, marking 7 per cent youth unemployment, a rise of 21.6 per cent over the decade. Young people now account for nearly half the world's jobless, it said, even though the age group made up only one quarter of the working-age population.

"We are wasting an important part of the energy and talent of the most educated youth generation the world has ever had," ILO director-general Juan Somavia said in a statement ahead of the International Youth Day on Thursday.

Youth unemployment rates in 2003 were highest in the Middle East and North Africa (25.6 per cent), followed by sub-Saharan Africa (21 per cent), the ILO said. World wide, the youth of today are more than three times as likely to be unemployed as adults, but the ratio skyrockets to 4.8 times in Southeast Asia and 5.9 times in South Asia.

"The relative disadvantage of youth in the labour market is more pronounced in developing economies, where they make up a strikingly higher proportion of the labour force than in industrialised economies," it said.

Young labourers are likely to be working long hours, on short-term or informal contracts, and with low pay and little or no social protection, it said. "An inability to find a job creates a sense of vulnerability, uselessness and idleness among young people and can heighten the attraction of engaging in illegal activities."

It said that halving youth unemployment, a huge challenge since the global youth population grew by 10.5 per cent in the past decade while youth employment remained flat, would add $2.2 trillion to the world's GDP. -AFP