Jobs for Youth/Des emplois pour les jeunes

1997-6844 (online)
1997-6836 (print)
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Improving the performance of youths in the labour market is a crucial challenge in OECD countries facing persistent youth unemployment. This series includes, for each subject country:  an examination of the the school-to-work transition process, a survey of the main barriers to employment for young people, an assessment of the adequacy and effectiveness of existing measures to improve the transition from school-to-work, and a set of policy recommendations for further action by the public authorities and social partners.
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Off to a Good Start? Jobs for Youth

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15 Dec 2010
9789264096127 (PDF) ;9789264096073(print)

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Promoting a smooth transition from school to work, and ensuring that youth are given the opportunities to move on in their careers and lives, have long been issues of fundamental importance for our economies and societies. Today, they are even more pressing challenges as the global economy emerges from the worst crisis of the past 50 years. Indeed, young people have borne much of the brunt of the recent jobs crisis. The youth unemployment rate is approaching 20% in the OECD area, with nearly 4 million more youth among the unemployed than at the end of 2007. 

The initial experience in the labour market has a profound influence on later working life. Getting off to a good start facilitates youth integration into the world of work and lays the foundation for a good career, while it can be difficult to catch up after an initial failure. In particular, the jobs crisis is likely to leave long-lasting "scarring" effects on some of the current generation of school-leavers, particularly if they face multiple disadvantages, such as having low skills and also coming from a disadvantaged background. 

Tackling the youth jobs crisis requires a strong commitment from all: the youth themselves, the government through well-targeted and effective policy measures, social partners though their participation in the dialogue, and other key actors – such as teachers, practitioners and parents – who can really make a difference to investing in youth. 

This report makes an important contribution to a new agenda of youth-friendly employment policies and practices. It analyses the situation of youth employment and unemployment in the context of the jobs crisis and identifies successful policy measures in OECD countries. But it also discusses structural reforms in education and in the labour market that can facilitate the transition from school to work. The report draws on both recent data and the main lessons that emerged from the 16 country reviews conducted as part of the OECD Jobs for Youth/Des emplois pour les jeunes programme.

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  • Foreword
    Youth have been very hard hit by the recent jobs crisis. The youth unemployment rate is approaching 20% in the OECD area and is likely to remain high well into the recovery. Coping with a job loss in a weak labour market – when job offers are scarce and competition for them among jobseekers is fierce – is difficult for anyone. But for young workers, and especially for the disadvantaged among them, failure to find a first job or keep it for long can have negative long-term consequences on their career prospects that some experts refer to as "scarring".
  • Abbreviations
  • Executive Summary
    In the decade that preceded the 2008-09 global economic recession, youth labour market conditions improved significantly: the OECD average youth unemployment rate declined from 16% in the mid-1990s to 14% in the mid-2000s. This drop masks, however, significant differences across countries. Australia, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Norway were the best performing countries among the 16 OECD countries that participated in the Jobs for Youth thematic review. These countries shared particularly dynamic youth labour markets with above-average employment rates and a very low incidence of long-term unemployment.
  • Introduction
    Youth is a key asset for any society, and especially so in societies facing a rapid ageing of their labour force. Therefore, improving the performance of youth in the labour market is a pressing challenge in OECD countries. It is crucial to strengthen structural policies aimed at helping young people accomplish a successful transition from school to work and lay the foundation for a good career. Governments in OECD countries are concerned about how well-prepared young people are by the education system and how youth-friendly current social and labour market institutions are. Key stakeholders are convinced of the need to develop better co-ordinated education, labour market and social institutions that are likely to maximise youth opportunities.
  • How are young people faring in the jobs crisis?
    The 2008-09 recession and the resulting jobs crisis had a dramatic impact on youth unemployment. In the OECD area, the youth unemployment rate reached a post-war high of 19% in 2010. Even though a recovery is now underway, the youth unemployment rate is projected to decline only slowly. The current shift to fiscal consolidation in a growing number of OECD countries is challenging and calls for even better designed and targeted policies. The goals of facilitating the school-to-work transition and improving labour market prospects for all youth are more urgent than ever. If these goals are not achieved and the numbers of disadvantaged youth swelled significantly, there is a high risk of creating a large hard-core group of youth left behind with "scarring" effects and perpetuating poor employment prospects for youth in the longer term.
  • The youth employment challenge
    Young people are a vital asset in all OECD countries. But there are significant crosscountry differences in terms of the labour market situation of the youth population. There is also considerable heterogeneity among young people, which needs to be factored into any strategy to improve their employment prospects. Some countries have done much better than others in reducing the impact of the crisis on youth joblessness and appear much better placed for the recovery. Conditions in some of these countries when the crisis started were relatively favourable, while others have adopted effective policies to help youth weather the crisis.
  • Pathways and hurdles for some youth in the school-to-work transition
    The school-to-work transition is more difficult in countries where the dominant transition model is "study first, then work" and is easier in countries where combining study and work is frequent. Multiple pathways between school and work do exist and this highlights successes and failures. Two groups of youth, in particular, face structural difficulties in getting a stable job after leaving school: the groups of so-called "youth left behind" and "poorly-integrated new entrants". Policy measures for the first group should help them to gain the skills needed on the labour market while policy measures for the second group should also tackle demand-side barriers to youth employment. The ongoing jobs crisis is putting these two groups of disadvantaged youth under even greater stress and is likely to increase their numbers.
  • Better education and training to improve the transition to work
    The crisis has highlighted once again that one of the main underlying structural problems in the youth labour market is related to education and training. Some youth are leaving the education system and entering the labour market without a recognised qualification and/or with skills not relevant for labour market needs. This calls for remedial action that could be beneficial during the crisis but also well beyond. In many countries, actions are needed in several different areas, particularly to ensure high-quality training programmes for school drop-outs. Policy initiatives in OECD countries should all seek to achieve three key objectives, to: i) minimise the number of school drop-outs; ii) promote the combination of study and work; and iii) offer every youth a second chance to obtain a qualification. Recent promising and innovative measures implemented in OECD countries seek to prevent teenagers from dropping out of school, to help tertiary students and graduates to be better prepared to enter the labour market and to promote successful apprenticeship opportunities for youth, particularly among the most disadvantaged groups.
  • Removing demand-side barriers to youth employment
    Many structural barriers to youth employment are also related to labour demand. They call for temporary measures during the ongoing jobs crisis but also for structural reforms that could be beneficial well beyond the crisis. In many countries, actions are needed on several different areas. Recent promising and innovative measures implemented in OECD countries are presented in three areas: i) investing in funds that promote new skills for new jobs targeting young entrants; ii) reducing the cost of employing low-skilled youth; and iii) continue efforts to reduce labour-market duality overall.
  • Minimising the longer-term impact of the jobs crisis on youth
    The danger of a "lost generation" following the 2008-09 recession has motivated many countries to intervene vigorously in the youth labour market. Governments now face difficult choices going forward to assure a job-rich recovery for youth in the context of moderate and uncertain growth and mounting fiscal pressures. In the short term, the main objective is to ensure that school-leavers and young workers remain connected to the labour market. In this context, it is of paramount importance that governments continue to act decisively during the recovery phase to provide more job-search assistance and guidance for all young people experiencing difficulties in finding a job, to support young workers made redundant and target well-designed active labour market programmes for the most disadvantaged among them.
  • Conclusion: implementing jobs for youth policies
    Action is required on many fronts to help youth get a firm foothold in the labour market. Success depends on both sound policies and effective implementation at the local level, which in turns requires the active involvement of different stakeholders. Action needs to start in early childhood and particular attention should be paid to ensure that highquality early-childhood education services reach children from low-income families and/or with an immigrant/minority background. Furthermore, to ensure that the benefits of preschool interventions endure for these children, supports for them and their families should be sustained to facilitate their progression in the education system. Likewise, individual follow-up measures for those disadvantaged youth who have succeeded in getting a foothold in the labour market should be maintained for a while to secure it. Governments cannot do everything alone and co-ordinated supports and incentives have to come from all stakeholders, employers, unions and NGOs, and naturally from youth themselves. A co-ordinated and comprehensive package of education, social and labour market measures should be developed and implemented jointly by all actors.
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