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World Changing Ideas

There Are 600 Million Young People Around The World Neither Working Nor Training

Young people should be a boon to the economy. Instead, many of the young people today can't find work—and don't have much hope of doing so.

There Are 600 Million Young People Around The World Neither Working Nor Training

[Photo: marigold_88/iStock]

They're called NEETs: young people "not in education, employment, or training." And there are a lot of NEETs in the world today. The World Bank estimates that 600 million people aged 15-24 are not at work or training for something (about one-third of that total age group). Together, young people account for 40% of the world's unemployed, and are about four times more likely to be unemployed as full adults.

You can see how NEETs are distributed in the maps here. Most are in southern Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. And here's the really scary thing. In the next decade, because of demographic trends, 1 billion more young people will enter the global job market. This is at a time of decreasing employment in the type of manufacturing jobs that traditionally have allowed poorer countries to rise up the income scale.

In theory, countries with younger populations should enjoy a demographic dividend where they have more people of working age (paying taxes) and fewer dependents (either young or old) who need state support. But, without jobs, this demographic advantage can turn sour. The current instability in the Middle East is partly a reflection of a lack of jobs and direction among the young, the World Bank says.

Last year, a report from the World Bank and groups such as RAND, Accenture, and the International Labour Organization argued for a series of new policies. Those include promoting entrepreneurship as an alternative to traditional work, more credit availability for entrepreneurs often frozen out of the financial system, and greater investment in training.

"The rise of economic insurgency and youth extremism demand that we explore the links between economic participation, inequality, and community security, crime, and national fragility through a lens focused on youth," the report said.

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