The International Labor Organization says the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the youth labor market. The ILO’s just released “Global Employment Trends for 2022” report finds job prospects for young people between the ages of 15 and 24 are lagging behind other age groups.
Latest data estimate the total global number of unemployed youths will reach 73 million this year. While that is a slight improvement from 2021 levels, the ILO says the number of young people without jobs is still six million above the pre-pandemic level of 2019.
ILO Deputy Director-General Martha Newton says the COVID-19 crisis has exposed shortcomings in the way the needs of young people are being addressed. She says those least able to gain a foothold in the labor market include first-time jobseekers, school dropouts, inexperienced fresh graduates, and those who remain inactive not by choice.
“Following the arrival of the pandemic in 2020, the share of young people who are neither in employment, education, or training– and we refer to them as NEETS—rose to 23.3 percent, reaching the highest level…We saw the youth NEET rate jump to its highest level in 15 years,” Newton said.
The ILO says young people have faced multi-dimensional crises throughout the pandemic. It says interruptions in their education and training have robbed them of the skills needed to get a job. That, it says, threatens to damage their long-term employment, education and earning prospects.
Newton says job opportunities are narrowing for many young people. She adds young women are worse off than young men in finding employment. She says the ILO projects 27.4 percent of young women globally are likely to be employed in 2022, compared to 40.3 percent of young men.
“The impact of the pandemic has a feminine face. And we also know from our data that women are not coming back into the labor force at the same rates as the men in many countries around the world,” Newton said. “This is partly tied to the care responsibilities of women.”
The report finds recovery in youth unemployment is likely to be more successful in high-income countries than in low-and-middle-income countries. It projects the youth unemployment rate in North America to be below world average levels, at 8.3 percent compared to an unemployment rate of 20.5 percent in Latin America this year.
While youth unemployment stands at 12.7 percent in Africa, the report says that figure masks the fact that many young people in Africa have chosen to withdraw from the labor market.
The ILO cites the Arab states as the region with the highest and fastest growing youth unemployment rate in the world. It says the situation for women is particularly bad. The report notes the 42.5 percent unemployment rate for young women in the region is nearly three times higher than the global average for young women.