As youth unemployment spikes, job seekers keep dreaming

Youth unemployment

The global youth unemployment rate has returned to a level close to its all-time high, according to new data from the International Labor Organization.

An estimated 71 million young people ages 15-24 are currently looking for work but can’t find it, the ILO reported, pushing the rate to 13.1 percent. It hit 13.2 percent in 2013, part of the aftermath of the Great Recession.

The current spike in unemployment is accompanied by rising levels of poverty among young people.

"In emerging and developing countries, nearly 38 percent of working youth are living in extreme or moderate poverty,” said Sheena Yoon, an ILO researcher.

That’s at least 156 million young people who have jobs but still live in poverty, predominantly in developing economies.  

Yoon and her team found “growing evidence of a shift in the age distribution of poverty, with youth taking the place of the elderly as the group at highest risk of poverty.”

Unemployment rates in different countries are affected by wide disparities in economic prosperity, of course, but also profoundly influenced by gender.

The labor participation rate for young men is 53.9 percent, compared to 37.3 percent for young women. That’s a gap of 16.6 percentage points, with Southern Asia, the Arab States and Northern Africa representing the regions most skewed toward men.

The GroundTruth Project has reported on global youth unemployment since early 2014 as part of its series “Generation TBD.” In March, GroundTruth, RTI International and the Global Center for Youth Employment launched a user-generated storytelling platform called “YouthVoices” to help find the human stories behind the grim numbers.

We asked youth from around the world, "What is your dream job? What's standing in your way?" A panel of expert judges selected the winners from hundreds of compelling entries from dozens of countries.

And this week, GroundTruth launches “Ambitions Interrupted: 35 Dream Jobs.”

The stories of youth from around the world demonstrate the "remarkable in the unremarkable," the resilience and personal triumphs within the difficult journey from education to employment and perhaps, landing a dream job.

As part of the project, we created the interactive map below visualizing the state of global youth unemployment through layers of data, including the GDP per capita, male and female youth unemployment rates, youth literacy rates and the overall workforce unemployment rate per each country.

The data illustrate how each nation is working with its own unique set of factors that shape the quality of a young person’s life. For instance, Uganda has a 6.2-percent unemployment rate among male youth, yet almost 20 percent of its overall population lived below the national poverty line in 2012, according to the World Bank.

Italy’s male youth unemployment rate was extreme — 43 percent in 2014 — but its GDP per capita was almost 50 times greater than Uganda’s that year. And while no single data set can accurately represent the entire issue of youth unemployment, as we begin to add young voices to the numbers, the depth of human potential worldwide becomes more tangible.

How to use this map

Layers of data can be turned on and off by clicking on the “Visible Layers” tab.

The “Stories” layer links to stories from the “Ambitions Interrupted” series.

Once a layer is selected, use your cursor to hover over the map and a window will appear with the corresponding data. The darker the shade of green, the higher the data value is. If a country is black, it means that the data is not available. Specific countries can also be found using the search bar on the right.

This story was originally published by our partners at The GroundTruth Project.

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