In recent weeks, there’s been a lot of ink used up on the sequester in the United States, Oscar Pistorius in South Africa and the protracted economic crisis in Europe. However, in John Kerry’s first speech as American Secretary of State last week, he focused on none of that (partly because none of it was particularly relevant to his job, I suppose), but on the impact that foreign policy can have on economic policy, particularly in regards to the youth.
“In countries across North Africa and the Middle East, the majority of people are younger than 30 years old. About half are under 20,” he said. “They seek the same things you do: opportunity. And we have an interest in helping these young people develop the skills they need to defeat the mass unemployment overwhelming their societies so they can start contributing to their communities and rebuild their broken economies.”
According to the Truman Project, the real global issue – the real elephant in the room – is youth unemployment. While we young people have it easier in many ways than our parents’ and grandparents’ generation, in terms of unemployment in many portions of the world, it is much harder to be a young person today than it was 20 or 30 years ago.
There are 75 million unemployed youth globally. Young people between the ages of 15 and 24 are three times more likely to be unemployed than older adults. In Spain, last month, youth unemployment received the dubious distinction of topping 55 percent. Though in the United States, it is not nearly as bad as that, with Americans stating that 80 is the new retirement age, there are far fewer jobs for young workers to fill.
Youth unemployment is a very serious problem, and not just because that means that young people can’t get the newest iPad as quickly. One theory posits that countries where youth cannot get jobs and become disaffected quickly plunge into civil unrest. These young people become more prone to joining rebel and terrorist groups and can become violent. Though no one is quite sure about how to address youth unemployment yet, it is clear that it is something that needs to be addressed.