As the United Nations’ International Year of Youth kicks off, one of its agencies is warning of a "lost generation" of young workers who can’t get decent jobs.
The body launched its International Year of Youth to raise awareness of problems facing the one billion 15 to 24 year olds.
This age group makes up 18 per cent of the total world population. And nine out of 10 of them live in developing countries.
"Many of these young people are bearing the brunt of the global economic crisis," UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said at the year-long programme’s launch ceremony in New York last week.
He said the young people are not responsible for the economic crisis. But some of them have been forced out of schools because their parents cannot afford to pay their fees.
The launch comes as a new report shows youth unemployment has soared to record highs during the world economic crisis. Some 620 million 15 to 24 year-olds, or 81 million were unemployed at the end of last year − the highest number ever recorded.
"The effects of the crisis were massive," said ILO economist Sara Elder warning that it could lead to a "lost generation" of young people dropping out of the labour market, "having lost all hope of being able to work for a decent living.”
Young people living in developing countries are suffering the most, the report said. Even those who struggle while holding down several jobs in very poor countries still do not earn enough, the report said. It added that when the job market finally does recover, it will take longer for young people to get back into work than it will for adults.
"Young people are the drivers of economic development," said ILO Director-General Juan Somavia. "Foregoing this potential is an economic waste and can undermine social stability."
During the International Year, the UN will focus on– raising investment in young people, helping them to take part in the social decision making process; and boosting understanding between young people from different cultures.
Forty per cent of people infected with HIV in 2008 were young people the UN said, launching its year of youth. That breaks down to four million young Africans living with HIV, and 70 per cent of these are girls and young women. In south and south eastern Asia, an estimated 3.8 million young people live with HIV. One-third of the 280,000 people newly infected in 2008 in those regions were young people 15 to 24-years-old.